Keyword Search

Table of Contents

Previous Chapter

Essays on "Supernatural Religion"

by J. B. Lightfoot



[MAY, 1875.]

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, is the most important person in the history of the Christian Church during the ages immediately succeeding the Apostles. In the eyes of his own and the next generations, Clement of Rome appears to have held a more prominent position, if we may judge from the legendary stories which have gathered about his name; but for ourselves the interest which attaches to Polycarp is far greater. This importance he owes to his peculiar position, rather than to any marked greatness or originality of character. Two long lives--those of St John and of Polycarp--span the period which elapsed between the personal ministry of our Lord and the great Christian teachers living at the close of the second century. Polycarp was the disciple of St John, and IrenŠus was the disciple of Polycarp. We know enough of St John's teaching, if the books ascribed to him in our Canon are accepted as genuine. We are fully acquainted with the tenets of IrenŠus, and of these we may say generally that on all the most important points they conform to the theological standard which has satisfied the Christian Church ever since. But of the intermediate period between the close of the first century and the close of the second, the notices are sparse, the literature is scanty and fragmentary. Hence modern criticism has busied itself with hypothetical reconstructions of Christian history during this interval. It has been maintained that the greater part of the writings of our Canon were unknown and unwritten at the beginning of this period. It has been supposed that there was a complete discontinuity in the career of the Christian Church throughout the world. The person of Polycarp is a standing protest against any such surmises. Unless IrenŠus was entirely mistaken as to the teaching of his master, unless the extant Epistle ascribed to Polycarp is altogether spurious, these views must fall to the ground. It is indispensable for the advocates of the TŘbingen theory respecting the origin of the Christian Church and the Scriptural Canon to make good both these positions alike. Otherwise it can have no standing ground. My object in the following investigations is to show that neither position is tenable.

Polycarp was born more than thirty years before the close of the first century, and he survived to the latter half of the second. The date of his birth may be fixed with some degree of certainty as A.D. 69 or 70. At all events it cannot have been later than this. At the time of his martyrdom, which is now ascertained to have taken place A.D. 155 or 156 [90:1], he declared that he had served Christ eighty-six years [90:2]; and, if this expression be explained as referring to the whole period of his life (which is the more probable supposition), we are carried back to the date which I have just given.

Thus Polycarp was born on the eve of a great crisis, which was fraught with momentous consequences to the Church at large, and which more especially made itself felt in the Christian congregations of his own country, proconsular Asia. The fall of Jerusalem occurred in the autumn of the year 70. But at the final assault the Christians were no longer among the besieged. The impending war had been taken as the signal for their departure from the doomed city. The greater number had retired beyond the Jordan, and founded Christian colonies in Pella and the neighbourhood. But the natural leaders of the Church--the surviving Apostles and personal disciples of Christ--had sought a home elsewhere. From this time forward it is neither to Jerusalem nor to Pella, but to proconsular Asia, and more especially to Ephesus as its metropolis, that we must look for the continuance of the original type of Apostolic doctrine and practice. At the epoch of the catastrophe we find the Apostle John for a short time living in exile--whether voluntary or constrained, it is unnecessary to inquire--in the island of Patmos. Soon after this he takes up his abode at Ephesus, which seems to have been his head-quarters during the remainder of his long life [91:1]. And John was not alone in choosing Asia Minor as his new home. More especially the companions of his early youth seem to have been attracted to this neighbourhood. Of two brother Apostles and fellow-countrymen of Bethsaida this is distinctly recorded. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, appears in company with John in these later years, according to an account which seems at least so far trustworthy [91:2]. The presence of Philip, the special friend of Andrew [91:3], in these parts is recorded on still better authority [91:4]. Philip himself died at Hierapolis in Phrygia; but one of his three daughters was buried at Ephesus, where perhaps he had resided at an earlier date. Among other personal disciples of Christ, not otherwise known to us, who dwelt in these districts of Asia Minor, Aristion and a second John are mentioned, with whom Papias, the friend of Polycarp, had conversed [91:5].

Among these influences Polycarp was brought up. His own words, to which I have already alluded, seem to show that he was born of Christian parentage. At all events he must have been a believer from early childhood. If his parents were Christians, they probably received their first lessons in the Gospel from the teachers of an earlier date--from St Paul who had planted the Churches of Asia Minor, or from St Peter who appears to have watered them, [92:1] or from the immediate disciples of one or other of these two Apostles. But during the childhood and youth of Polycarp himself the influence of St John was paramount. IrenŠus reports (and there is no reason for questioning the truth of his statement) that St John survived to the reign of Trajan [92:2], who ascended the imperial throne A.D. 98. Thus Polycarp would be about thirty years old at the time of St John's death. When therefore IrenŠus relates that he was appointed bishop in Smyrna 'by Apostles,' [92:3] the statement involves no chronological difficulty, even though we interpret the term 'bishop' in its more restricted sense, and not as a synonyme for presbyter, according to its earlier meaning. Later writers say distinctly that he was appointed to the episcopal office by St John [92:4].

At all events, he appears as Bishop of Smyrna in the early years of the second century. When Ignatius passes through Asia Minor on his way to martyrdom, he halts at Smyrna, where he is received by Polycarp. At a later stage in his journey he writes to his friend. The tone of his letter is altogether such as might be expected from an old man writing to a younger, who nevertheless held a position of great responsibility, and had shown himself worthy of the trust. After expressing his thankfulness for their meeting, and commending his friend's steadfast faith, which was 'founded as on an immovable rock,' he proceeds:--

Vindicate thine office in all diligence, whether in things carnal or in things spiritual. Have a care for unity, than which nothing is better. Sustain all men, even as the Lord sustaineth thee. Suffer all men in love, as also thou doest. Give thyself to unceasing prayer. Ask for more wisdom than thou hast. Keep watch, and preserve a wakeful spirit.... Be thou wise as the serpent in all things, and harmless always as the dove.... The time requireth thee, as pilots require winds, or as a storm-tossed mariner a haven, so that it may find God.... Be sober, as God's athlete.... Stand firm as an anvil under the stroke of the hammer. It becomes a great athlete to endure blows and to conquer.... Show thyself more zealous than thou art.... Let nothing be done without thy consent, neither do thou anything without God's consent, as indeed thou doest not [93:1].

The close of the letter is addressed mainly to the SmyrnŠans, enforcing their reciprocal obligations towards their bishop.

This letter, if the additional matter in the Vossian Epistles may be trusted, was written from Troas, when the martyr was on the point of embarking for Neapolis [93:2]. The next stage of his journey would bring him to Philippi, where he halted. Thence he proceeded by the great Egnatian road across the continent to the Hadriatic, on his way to Rome.

Shortly after this, Polycarp himself addresses a letter to the Philippians. He had been especially invited by his correspondents to write to them, but he had also a reason of his own for doing so. During this season of the year, when winter had closed the high seas for navigation, all news from Rome must travel through Macedonia to Asia Minor. At Smyrna they had not yet received tidings of the fate of Ignatius; and he hoped to get early information from his correspondents, who were some stages nearer to Rome where, as Polycarp assumed, his friend had already suffered martyrdom [93:3].

This was the occasion of the letter, which for various reasons possesses the highest interest as a document of early Christian literature, though far from remarkable in itself.

Its most important feature is the profuseness of quotation from the Apostolic writings. Of a Canon of the New Testament, strictly so called, it is not probable that Polycarp knew anything [93:4]. This idea was necessarily, as Dr Westcott has shown, the growth of time. But of the writings which are included in our Canon he shows a wide knowledge and an ample appreciation. In this respect he may not unprofitably be compared with Clement of Rome. Clement of Rome, there is good reason to believe, was a Hellenist Jew [94:1]; he must have been brought up in a familiar acquaintance with the Old Testament Scriptures. On the other hand Polycarp, as we have already seen, was probably the son of Christian parents; at all events he was educated from his earliest childhood in the knowledge of the Gospel; he had grown up in the society of Apostles and Apostolic men. This contrast of education makes itself apparent in the writings of the two Fathers. Though there are clear indications in Clement that he was acquainted with many of the Apostolic Epistles, yet his quotations are chiefly taken from the Old Testament. Again and again he cites continuous passages, and argues from them at length. But with Polycarp the case is different. The New Testament has exchanged places with the Old, at least so far as practical use is concerned. Notwithstanding its brevity, Polycarp's Epistle contains decisive coincidences with or references to between thirty and forty passages in the New Testament [94:2]. On the other hand, with the single exception of four words from the apocryphal book of Tobit [94:3], there is no quotation taken immediately from the Old Testament. Elsewhere indeed he cites the words of Ps. iv. 4, but these are evidently quoted from St Paul, and not directly from the Psalmist, as his context shows [95:1].

Not less remarkable than the number of his quotations from the New Testament is their wide range. Of the Evangelical references I shall have occasion to speak in a subsequent article. Besides these there is a strong coincidence with the Acts which can hardly be accidental [95:2]; and there are passages or expressions taken from most of the Apostolic Epistles. Among the latter the most decisive examples frequently refer to those very Epistles which modern criticism has striven to discredit. It cannot reasonably be questioned for instance, that Polycarp was acquainted with the Epistle to the Ephesians and with the two Epistles to Timothy. Of the indisputable references to the First Epistle of St Peter I have already spoken in a former paper [95:3].

But the most important fact, in its bearing on recent controversy, is the relation of the writer to St Paul. According to the hypothesis of the TŘbingen school, there was a personal antagonism between St Paul and St John, and an irreconcilable feud between their respective schools. It is therefore with special interest that we look to see what the most eminent scholar of the beloved disciple says about the Apostle of the Gentiles. Now St Paul occupies quite the most prominent place in Polycarp's Epistle. This prominence is partly explained by the fact that he is writing to a Church of St Paul's founding, but this explanation does not detract from its value. St Paul is the only Apostle who is mentioned by name; his writings are the only Apostolic writings which are referred to by name; of his thirteen Epistles, there are probable references to as many as eleven [95:4]; there are direct appeals to his example and his teaching alike: there is even an apology on the writer's part for the presumption of seeming to set himself up as a rival to the Apostle by writing to a Church to whom he had addressed an Epistle [96:1]. Altogether the testimony to the respect in which St Paul is held by the writer is as complete as language can make it. If therefore the Epistle be accepted as genuine, the position of the TŘbingen school must be abandoned.

From considering the phenomena of the extant Epistle, we pass by a natural transition to the second point which I proposed to investigate, the traditions of the author's teaching.

Polycarp was no longer a young man, when his Epistle was written. But he lived on to see a new generation grow up from infancy to mature age afterwards; and as the companion of Apostles and the depositary of the Apostolic tradition, his influence increased with his increasing years. Before he died, even unbelievers had come to regard him as the 'Father of the Christians.'

Of his later years a glimpse is afforded to us in the record of an eye-witness. Among the disciples of his old age were two youths, companions for the time, but destined to stand far apart in after life--

'Like cliffs that had been rent asunder;'

the elder, Florinus, who became famous afterwards as a heretical leader; the younger, IrenŠus, who stood forward as the great champion of orthodoxy. The following is the remonstrance addressed by IrenŠus to his former associate after his defection:--

These opinions, Florinus, that I may speak without harshness, are not of sound judgment; these opinions are not in harmony with the Church, but involve those adopting them in the greatest impiety; these opinions even the heretics outside the pale of the Church have never ventured to broach; these opinions the elders before us, who also were disciples of the Apostles, did not hand down to thee. For I saw thee, when I was still a boy ([Greek: pais ˘n eti]), in Lower Asia in company with Polycarp, while thou wast faring prosperously in the royal court, and endeavouring to stand well with him. For I distinctly remember ([Greek: diamnŕmoneu˘]) the incidents of that time better than events of recent occurrence; for the lessons received in childhood ([Greek: ek paid˘n]), growing with the growth of the soul, become identified with it; so that I can describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and his manner of life, and his personal appearance, and the discourses which he held before the people, and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words. And whatsoever things he had heard from them about the Lord, and about his miracles, and about his teaching, Polycarp, as having received them from eye-witnesses of the life of the Word [97:1], would relate altogether in accordance with the Scriptures. To these (discourses) I used to listen at the time with attention by God's mercy which was bestowed upon me, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart; and by the grace of God, I constantly ruminate upon them faithfully ([Greek: gnŕsi˘s]). And I can testify in the sight of God, that if the blessed and Apostolic elder had heard anything of this kind, he would have cried out, and stopped his ears, and said after his wont, 'O good God, for what times hast Thou kept me, that I should endure such things?' and would even have fled from the place where he was sitting or standing when he heard such words. And indeed, this can be shown from his letters which he wrote either to the neighbouring Churches for their confirmation, or to certain of the brethren for their warning and exhortation [97:2].

Unfortunately the chronological notices are not sufficiently precise to enable us to fix the date either of this intercourse with Polycarp, or of the letter to Florinus in which IrenŠus records it. In the year 155 or 156 Polycarp died; in the year 177 IrenŠus became Bishop of Lyons. Putting these two facts together, we may perhaps assume that IrenŠus must have been a pupil of Polycarp somewhere between A.D. 135-150. The mention of the 'royal court' seems at first sight to suggest the hope of a more precise solution; but even if this notice be taken to imply the presence of the Emperor for the time being in Asia Minor, our information respecting the movements of Hadrian and his successors is too scanty to afford ground for any safe inference [98:1].

Of the later career of Florinus, we are informed that he was at one time a presbyter of the Roman Church; that he afterwards fell away, and taught his heresy in the metropolis; that in consequence IrenŠus addressed to him this letter from which I have given the extract, and which was also entitled 'On Monarchy' or 'Showing that God is no--the author of evil' ([Greek: poiŕtŕn kak˘n])--this being the special heresy of Florinus; and that afterwards, apparently by a rebound, he lapsed into Valentinianism, on which occasion IrenŠus wrote his treatise on the Ogdoad [98:2]. As the treatise of IrenŠus on the Ogdoad can hardly have been written later than his extant work on Heresies, in which Valentinianism is so fully discussed as to render any such partial treatment superfluous, and which dates from the episcopate of Eleutherius (A.D. 177-190), we are led to the conclusion that the letter to Florinus was one of the earliest writings of this Father.

Thus we are left without any means of ascertaining the exact age of IrenŠus when he sat at the feet of Polycarp. But beyond this uncertainty his testimony is as explicit as could well be desired. All experience, if I mistake not, bears out his statement respecting the vividness of the memory during this period of life. In a recent trial, the most fatal blot in the evidence was the inability of a pretender to give any information respecting the games and studies, the companions, the familiar haunts, of the school and college days of the person with whom he identified himself. It is the penalty which mature age pays for clearer ideas and higher powers of generalisation, that the recollection of facts becomes comparatively blurred. Very often an old man will relate with perfect distinctness the incidents of his youth and early manhood, while a haze will rest over much of the intervening period. Those who have listened to a Sedgwick after a lapse of sixty or seventy years repeating anecdotes of the 'statesmen' in his native dale, or describing the circumstances under which he first heard the news of the battle of Trafalgar, will be able to realize the vividness of the stories which the aged Polycarp would tell to his youthful pupil of his intercourse with the last surviving Apostle--the memory of the narrator being quickened and the interest of the hearer intensified, in this case, by the conviction that they were brought face to face with facts such as the world had never seen before.

One incident more is recorded of this veteran preacher of the Gospel. In the closing years of his life he undertook a journey to Rome, where he conferred with the bishop, Anicetus. The main subject of this conference was the time of celebrating the Passion. Polycarp pleaded the practice of St John and the other Apostles with whom he had conversed, for observing the actual day of the Jewish Passover, without respect to the day of the week. On the other hand, Anicetus could point to the fact that his predecessors, at least as far back as Xystus, who succeeded to the see soon after the beginning of the century, had always kept the anniversary of the Passion on a Friday and that of the Resurrection on a Sunday, thus making the day of the month give place to the day of the week. Neither convinced the other, but they parted good friends. This difference of usage did not interfere with the most perfect cordiality; and, as a sign of this, Anicetus allowed Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his stead [100:1]. About forty years later, when the Paschal controversy was revived, and Victor, a successor of Anicetus, excommunicated the Asiatic Churches, IrenŠus, though himself an observer of the Western usage, wrote to remonstrate with Victor on this harsh and tyrannical measure. An extract from his letter is preserved by Eusebius, in which these incidents respecting his old master are recorded [100:2]. IrenŠus insists strongly on the fact that "the harmony of the faith" has never been disturbed hitherto by any such diversities of usage.

To this visit to Rome IrenŠus makes another reference in his extant work against Heresies. The perfect confidence with which he appeals to the continuity of the Apostolic tradition, and to the testimony of Polycarp as the principal link in the chain, gives a peculiar significance to this passage, and no apology is needed for quoting it at length. After speaking of the succession of the Roman bishops, through whom the true doctrine has been handed down to his own generation without interruption, he adds--

And (so it was with) Polycarp also, who not only was taught by Apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse ([Greek: sunanastrapheis]) with many that had seen Christ, but also received his appointment in Asia from Apostles, as Bishop in the Church of Smyrna, whom we too have seen in our youth ([Greek: en tŕ pr˘tŕ hŕm˘n hŕlikia]) for he survived long, and departed this life at a very great age, by a glorious and most notable martyrdom, having ever taught these very things, which he had learnt from the Apostles, which the Church hands down, and which alone are true. To these testimony is borne by all the Churches in Asia, and by the successors of Polycarp up to the present time, who was a much more trustworthy and safer witness of the truth than Valentinus and Marcion, and all such wrong-minded men. He also, when on a visit to Rome in the days of Anicetus, converted many to the Church of God from following the aforenamed heretics, by preaching that he had received from the Apostles this doctrine, and this only, which was handed down by the Church, as the truth. And there are those who have heard him tell how John, the disciple of the Lord, when he went to take a bath in Ephesus, and saw Cerinthus within, rushed away from the room without bathing, with the words, 'Let us flee, lest the room should indeed fall in, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.' Yea, and Polycarp himself also on one occasion, when Marcion confronted him and said, 'Dost thou recognize me?' answered, 'I recognize the firstborn of Satan.' Such care did the Apostles and their disciples take not to hold any communication, even by word, with any of those who falsify the truth, as Paul also said, 'A man that is a heretic after a first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that such an one is perverted and sinneth, being self-condemned.' Moreover, there is an Epistle of Polycarp addressed to the Philippians, which is most adequate ([Greek: hikan˘tatŕ]), and from which both his manner of life and his preaching of the truth may be learnt by those who desire to learn and are anxious for their own salvation. And again, the Church in Ephesus, which was founded by Paul, and where John survived till the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the Apostles [101:1].

I have given these important extracts at length because they speak for themselves. If I mistake not, they will be more convincing than many arguments. It is impossible to doubt the sincerity of IrenŠus, when he thus explicitly and repeatedly maintains that the doctrines which he holds and teaches are the same which Polycarp had held and taught before him. On the other hand, a school of critics which has arisen in the present generation maintains that IrenŠus was mistaken from beginning to end; that, instead of this continuity in the teaching and history of the Church, there had been a violent dislocation; that St John, as an Apostle of the Circumcision, must have had a deep-rooted aversion to the doctrine and work of St Paul; and that Polycarp, as a disciple of St John, must have shared that aversion, and cannot therefore have recognized the authority of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

It is difficult to believe that those who hold this theory have seriously faced the historical difficulties which it involves, or have attempted to realize any combination of circumstances by which this revolution could have been brought about in such a manner as to escape the notice of the next succeeding generations. I shall probably have occasion hereafter to speak of the solidarity of the Church at this epoch. At present it is sufficient to say that the direct personal testimony of IrenŠus respecting Polycarp is by no means the only, or even the greatest, impediment to this theory. He constantly appeals to the Asiatic elders, the disciples and followers of the Apostles, in confirmation of his statement. Among the Christian teachers of proconsular Asia who immediately succeeded Polycarp, are two famous names, Melito of Sardis and Claudius Apollinaris of Hierapolis. They must already have reached middle life before Polycarp's martyrdom. They were not merely practical workers, but voluminous writers also. The lists of their works handed down to us comprise the widest range of topics; they handle questions of Christian ethics, of Scriptural interpretation, of controversial divinity, of ecclesiastical order, of theological metaphysics. Was there then any possibility of a mistake here? To us the history of the Church during the second century is obscure, because all this voluminous literature, except a few meagre fragments, has been blotted out. But to the contemporaries and successors of IrenŠus it was legible enough. 'Who does not know,' exclaims his own pupil Hippolytus, 'the books of IrenŠus and Melito and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man?' [102:1]

This mission of peace to Rome must have been one of the latest acts of the old man's life. The accession of Anicetus to the see of Rome is variously dated; but the earliest year is about A.D. 150, and an eminent recent critic, who has paid special attention to the subject, places it between A.D. 154 and A.D. 156 [103:1]. In the year 155, or 156 at the latest, Polycarp fell a martyr.

The details of his martyrdom are recorded in a contemporary document, which takes the form of a letter from the Church of Smyrna, addressed more immediately to the Church of Philomelium but challenging at the same time a wider circulation [103:2]. The simplicity with which the narrators record omens and occurrences easily explicable in themselves, but invested by their surcharged feelings with a miraculous character, is highly natural. The whole narrative is eminently touching and instructive; but the details have little or no bearing on my immediate purpose. It is sufficient to say that Polycarp had retired into the country to escape persecution; that the populace, not satisfied with the victims already sacrificed to their fury, demanded the life of Polycarp, as the 'father of the Christians;' that his hiding-place was betrayed by a boy in his service, under the influence of torture; that the magistrates urged him to save his life by submitting to the usual tests, by pronouncing the formula, 'CŠsar is Lord,' or offering sacrifice, or swearing by the fortune of the Emperor, or reviling Christ; that he declared himself unable to blaspheme a Master whom he had served for eighty-six years, and from whom he had received no wrong; and that consequently he was burnt at the stake, Jews and Heathens vying with each other in feeding the flames. The games were already past; otherwise he would have been condemned to the wild beasts--the usual punishment for such contumacy.

Polycarp was martyred during the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus. The commonly received date of his death is A.D. 166 or 167, as given in the Chronicon of Eusebius. Quite recently however, M. Waddington has subjected the proconsular _fasti_ of Asia Minor to a fresh and rigorous scrutiny [103:3]. This Statius Quadratus is mentioned by the orator Aristides; and by an investigation of the chronology of Aristides' life, with the aid of newly-discovered inscriptions, M. Waddington arrives at the result that Quadratus was proconsul in 154, 155; and, as Polycarp was martyred in the early months of the year, his martyrdom must be dated A.D. 155. This result is accepted by M. Renan [104:1], and substantially also by Hilgenfeld and Lipsius [104:2], who however (for reasons into which it is unnecessary to enter here) postpones the martyrdom to the following year, A.D. 156. M. Waddington's arguments seem conclusive, and this rectification of date removes some stumbling-blocks. The relations between St John and Polycarp for instance, as reported by IrenŠus and others, no longer present any difficulty, when the period during which the lives of the two overlap each other is thus extended. The author of _Supernatural Religion_ very excusably adopts the received date of Polycarp's martyrdom, being unaware, as it would seem, of these recent investigations.

In this account of Polycarp, I have assumed the genuineness of the Epistle ascribed to him; but the author of _Supernatural Religion_ has taken his side with those writers who condemn it as spurious, and I am therefore obliged to give reasons for this confidence.

So far as regards external testimony, it must be confessed that the Epistle of Polycarp presents itself with credentials of exceptional value. The instances are very rare indeed where a work of antiquity can claim the direct testimony of a pupil of the writer to whom it is ascribed. The statement of IrenŠus respecting the authorship of this Epistle is explicit; and indeed, as the reference is not denied either by the author of _Supernatural Religion_ or by other critics, like Lipsius and Hilgenfeld, who nevertheless condemn the Epistle as spurious, I am saved all trouble in establishing its adequacy. Our author indeed is content to set it aside, because 'the testimony of IrenŠus is not ... entitled to much weight, inasmuch as his intercourse with Polycarp was evidently confined to a short period of his extreme youth, and we have no reason to suppose that he had any subsequent communication with him.' [105:1] I do not see how the notice of IrenŠus justifies the statement that the period was short; but the passage has been given above, and the reader may judge for himself. Nor does it seem probable, considering that the communications between Asia Minor and southern Gaul were close and frequent, that the pupil should altogether have lost sight of the master whom he revered, when he migrated to his new and distant home in the west. But, even though all this be granted, the fact still remains, that the testimony is exceptionally good and would in ordinary cases be regarded as quite decisive. I do not say that it is impossible IrenŠus could have been mistaken; there is always risk of error in human testimony; but I maintain that, unless we are required to apply a wholly different standard of evidence here from that which is held satisfactory in other cases, we approach this Epistle with a very strong guarantee of its authenticity, which can only be invalidated by solid and convincing proofs, and against which hypothetical combinations and ingenious surmises are powerless [105:2]. Whether the objections adduced by the impugners of this Epistle are of this character, the reader will see presently.

From the external we turn to the internal evidence. We are asked to believe that this letter was forged on the confines of the age of IrenŠus and Clement of Alexandria. But can anything be more unlike the ecclesiastical literature of this later generation, whether we regard the use of the New Testament, or the notices of ecclesiastical order, or the statements of theological doctrine? The Evangelical quotations are still given (as in Clement of Rome) with the formula, 'The Lord said;' the passages from the Apostolic Epistles are still, for the most part, indirect and anonymous. Though two or three chapters are devoted to injunctions respecting the ministry of the Church, there is not an allusion to episcopacy from beginning to end. Though the writer's ideas of the Person of Christ practically leave nothing to be desired, yet these ideas are still held in solution, and have not yet crystallized into the dogmatic forms which characterize the later generation. And from first to last this Epistle is silent upon those questions which interested the Church in the second half of the second century. Of Montanism, of the Paschal controversy, of the developed Gnostic heresies of this period, it says nothing. A supposed reference to Marcion I shall have to discuss presently. For the moment it is sufficient to say that an allusion so vague and pointless as this would be must certainly have missed its aim.

But this argument from internal evidence gains strength when considered from another point of view. The only intelligible theory--indeed, so far as I remember, the only attempt at a theory--offered to account for this Epistle by those who deny its genuineness or its integrity, connects it closely with the Ignatian letters. If forged, it was forged by the same hand which wrote the seven Vossian Epistles; if interpolated, it was interpolated by the person who expanded the three genuine Epistles into the seven. According to either hypothesis, the object was to recommend the Ignatian forgery on the authority of a great Dame; the motive betrays itself in the thirteenth chapter, where Polycarp is represented as sending several of the Ignatian Epistles to the Philippians along with his own letter. This theory is at all events intelligible; and, so far as I can see, it is the only rational theory of which the case admits.

Let us ask then, whether there is any improbability in the circumstances, as here represented. Ignatius had stayed at Philippi on his way to martyrdom; the Philippians had been deeply impressed by their intercourse with him; writing to Polycarp afterwards, they had requested him to send them a copy of the martyr's letter or letters to him; he complies with the request, and appends also copies of other letters written by Ignatius, which he happened to have in his possession. Is this at all unnatural? Suppose on the other hand, that the letter of Polycarp had contained no such reference to Ignatius and his Epistles, would it not have been regarded as a highly suspicious circumstance, that, writing to the Philippians so soon after Ignatius had visited both Churches, Polycarp should have said nothing about so remarkable a man? When I see how this argument from silence is worked in other cases, I cannot doubt that it would have been plied here as a formidable objection either to the truth of the Ignatian story, or to the genuineness of Polycarp's Epistle, or to both. My conclusion is that this notice proves nothing either way, when it stands alone. If the other contents of the Polycarpian Epistle are questionable, then it enforces our misgivings. If not, then this use of the notice is only another illustration of the over-suspicious temperament of modern criticism, which, as I ventured to suggest in an earlier paper, must be as fatal to calm and reasonable judgment in matters of early Christian history, as it is manifestly in matters of common life. The question therefore is narrowed to this issue, whether the Epistle of Polycarp bears evidence in its style and diction or in its modes of thought or in any other way, that it was written by the same hand which penned the Ignatian letters.

And here I venture to say that, however we test these documents, the contrast is very striking; more striking in fact than we should have expected to find between two Christian writers who wrote about the same time and were personally acquainted with each other. I will apply some of these tests.

1. The stress which Ignatius lays on episcopacy as the keystone of ecclesiastical order and the guarantee of theological orthodoxy, is well known. Indeed it is often supposed that the Ignatian Letters were written for this express purpose. In Polycarp's Epistle on the other hand, as I have already said, there is no mention of episcopacy. He speaks at length about the duties of the presbyters, of the deacons, of the widows, and others, but the bishop is entirely ignored. More especially he directs the younger men to be obedient to 'the presbyters and deacons, as to God and Christ,' but nothing is said about obedience to the bishop [108:1]. At a later point he has occasion to speak of an offence committed by one Valens, a presbyter, but here again there is the same silence. All this is quite intelligible, if the letter is genuine, on the supposition either that there was a vacancy in the Philippian bishopric at this time, or, as seems more probable, that the ecclesiastical organization there was not yet fully developed; but it is, so far as I can see, quite inconceivable that a forger whose object was to recommend episcopacy should have pictured a state of things so damaging to his main purpose. The supposed forger indeed shows himself throughout quite indifferent on this subject. There is every reason for believing that Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna at this time; yet in the heading of the letter he does not assert his title, but writes merely, 'Polycarp and the presbyters with him.'

2. If we turn from ecclesiastical organization to doctrinal statement, the contrast still remains. We meet with no such strong expressions as are found in the Ignatian letters; Polycarp, never speaks of 'the blood of God,' 'the passion of my God,' 'Jesus Christ our God,' and the like. Even in the commoner modes of designating our Lord, a difference is perceptible. Thus the favourite mode of expression with Ignatius is 'Jesus Christ' simply, which occurs nearly a hundred times; whereas in Polycarp it is only found twice (one passage being a quotation). On the other hand, the usual expression in Polycarp is 'Our Lord Jesus Christ,' which apparently occurs only twice in the Ignatian Epistles, and in both instances with various readings. Again the combination 'God and Christ,' occurring three times in Polycarp, does not appear once in the Ignatian letters [108:2].

3. The divergence of the two writers as regards Scriptural quotations is still more remarkable. Though the seven Ignatian letters are together at least five times as long as the Epistle of Polycarp, the quotations from the Apostolic Epistles in the latter are many times more numerous, as well as more precise, than in the former. Whole passages in Polycarp are made up of such quotations strung together, while in Ignatius they are very rare, being for the most part epigrammatic adaptations and isolated coincidences of language or thought. Nor indeed is their range coextensive. Thus the Epistle of Polycarp, as I pointed out in a former article [109:1], is pervaded with the language of St Peter's First Epistle, but in the Ignatian letters there is no trace of its use [109:2].

4. But this divergence only forms part of a still broader and more decisive contrast. The profuseness of quotation in Polycarp's Epistle arises from a want of originality. The writer reproduces the thoughts and words of others, because his mind is essentially receptive and not creative. He is altogether wanting in independence of thought. On the other hand, the Ignatian letters are remarkable for their individuality. Of all early Christian writings they are pre-eminent in this respect. They are full of idiomatic expressions, quaint images, unexpected turns of thought and language. They exhibit their characteristic ideas, which obviously have a high value for the writer, for he recurs to them again and again, but which the reader often finds it extremely difficult to grasp, owing to their singularity. I venture to think that any one who will carefully consider these contrasts--more especially the last, as extending over the whole field--must be struck with the impossibility of the theory which makes this letter part of the assumed Ignatian forgeries. This hypothesis requires us to believe that a very uncritical age produced a literary fiction, which, for subtlety and naturalness of execution, leaves the most skilful forgeries of the nineteenth century far behind.

And the hypothesis of interpolation is encumbered with difficulties of the same kind, and hardly less considerable. This hypothesis was shaped and developed by Ritschl [110:1], whose theory has been accepted by some later writers. He supposes that the greater part of the Epistle is the genuine production of the person whose name it bears, written however, not immediately after the death of Ignatius, but in the later years of Polycarp's long life. The three passages which relate to Ignatius, together with other parts which he defines, he supposes to have been interpolated by the same forger who amplified the three genuine letters of the martyr of Antioch into the seven of the Vossian collection. But if any one will take the passages which Ritschl has struck out as interpolated, he will find that the general style is the same; that individual expressions, more especially theological expressions, are the same; that the quotations are from the same range of books, as in the other parts, extending even to coincidences of expression with the Epistle of Clement of Rome; and that altogether there is nothing to separate one part from another, except the _a priori_ assumption that the references to Ignatius must be unhistorical. I do not know whether these facts have been pointed out before, and I cannot do more here than hint at lines of investigation which any one may follow up for himself. But when the phenomena are fully recognized, I venture to think that the difficulties in Ritschl's theory will be felt to be many times greater than those which it is framed to remove.

Of the general character of the Epistle, as affecting the question of its genuineness, the author of _Supernatural Religion_ has said nothing. But he has reproduced special objections which have been urged by previous writers; and to these I wish to call attention, because they are very good, and not unfavourable, illustrations of the style of criticism which is in vogue with the negative school.

1. Our author writes in the first place:--

We have just seen that the martyr-journey of Ignatius to Rome is, for cogent reasons, declared to be wholly fabulous, and the epistles purporting to be written during that journey must be held to be spurious. The Epistle of Polycarp, however, not only refers to the martyr-journey (c. ix), but to the Ignatian Epistles which are inauthentic (c. xiii), and the manifest inference is that it also is spurious.

Of the fabulous character of the martyr-journey I have already disposed in my previous article on the Ignatian letters [111:1]. For the present I reserve what I have to say concerning the assumed reference to the 'inauthentic' Epistles, as this objection will reappear again.

2. Our author on a later page urges that--

In the Epistle itself, there are many anachronisms. In ch. ix the 'blessed Ignatius' is referred to as already a considerable time dead, and he is held up with Zosimus and Rufus, and also with Paul and the rest of the Apostles, as examples of patience: men who have not run in vain, but are with the Lord; but in ch. xiii he is spoken of as living, and information is requested regarding him, 'and those who are with him.'

To this objection I had already supplied the answer [111:2] which has been given many times before, and which, as it seemed to me, the author ought in fairness to have noticed. I had pointed out that we have only the Latin version here, and that the present tense is obviously due to the translator. The original would naturally be [Greek: t˘n sun aut˘], which the translator, being obliged to supply a substantive verb, has carelessly rendered 'his qui cum eo _sunt_.' If any one will consider what has been just said about the general character of the Epistle, he will see that this is the only reasonable explanation of the fact, whether we regard the work as genuine or not. If it is not genuine, the forger has executed his task with consummate skill and appreciation; and yet here he is charged with a piece of bungling which a schoolboy would have avoided. It is not merely an anachronism, but a self-contradiction of the most patent kind. The writer, on this hypothesis, has not made up his mind whether Ignatius is or is not supposed to be dead at the time, and he represents the fact differently in two different parts [112:1].

But our author apparently is quite unaware that [Greek: hoi sun aut˘] might mean equally well, 'those who _were_ with him,' and those who _are_ with him.' At least I cannot attach any other meaning to his reply, in which he retorts upon me my own words used elsewhere, and speaks of my argument as being wrecked upon this rock of grammar.' [112:2] If so, I can only refer him to Thucydides or any Greek historian, where he will find scores of similar instances. I need hardly say that the expression itself is quite neutral as regards time, meaning nothing more than 'his companions,' and that the tense must be supplied according to the context or the known circumstances of the case. But I am not sorry that our author has fallen into this error, for it has led me to investigate the usage of Polycarp and his translator, and has thus elicited the following facts:--(1) Unless he departed from his ordinary usage, Polycarp would have employed the short expression [Greek: hoi sun aut˘] or [Greek: hoi met' autou] in such a case. Thus he has [Greek: ou sun aut˘] in the opening paragraph, and [Greek: tois ex hum˘n] in c. 9, with other similar distances. (2) The translator, if he had the words [Greek: tois sun aut˘] before him, would almost certainly supply the substantive verb, as he has done in the opening, 'qui cum eo _sunt_ presbyteri;' in c. 3, 'illis qui tunc _erant_ hominibus,' and 'quae _est_ in Deo;' in c. 9, 'qui ex vobis _sunt_;' and probably also in c. 12, 'qui _sunt_ sub coelo' (the Greek is wanting in this last passage). (3) The translator, in supplying the verb, was as likely as not to give the wrong tense. In fact, in the only other passage in the Epistle where it was possible to make a mistake, he has gone wrong on this very point; he has translated [Greek: hŕn kai eidete ... en allois tois ex hum˘n] mechanically by a present tense, 'quam et vidistis ... in aliis qui ex vobis _sunt_,' though the persons are mentioned in connection with St Ignatius and St Paul, and though it is distinctly stated immediately afterwards that they _all_ were dead, having, as we may infer from the context, ended their life by martyrdom. In fact, he has made the very same blunder which I ascribe to him here.

This objection therefore may be set aside for ever. But the notices which I have been considering suggest another reflection. Is the historical position which the writer of this letter takes up at all like the invention of a forger? Would he have thought of placing himself at the moment of time when Ignatius is supposed to have been martyred, but when the report of the circumstances had not yet reached Smyrna? If he had chosen this moment, would he not have made it clear, instead of leaving his readers to infer it by piecing together notices which are scattered through the Epistle--notices moreover, which, though entirely consistent with each other, are so far from obvious that his translator has been led astray by them, and that modern critics have woven out of them these entanglements which it has taken me so much time to unravel?

3. But our author proceeds:--

Moreover, although thus spoken of as alive, the writer already knows of his Epistles, and refers, in the plural, to those written by him 'to us, and all the rest which we have by us.' The reference here, it will be observed, is not only to the Epistles to the SmyrnŠans and to Polycarp himself, but to other spurious epistles which are not included in the Syriac version.

I have already shown that Ignatius is not spoken of as alive; but, if he had been alive, I do not see why Polycarp should not have known of his Epistles, seeing that of the seven Vossian letters four claim to have been written from Smyrna, when the saint was in some sense Polycarp's guest, and two to have been written to Smyrna. Therefore of the seven Epistles, supposing them to be genuine, Polycarp would almost necessarily have been acquainted with six.

By the 'other spurious Epistles,' which the Epistle of Polycarp is supposed to recognize, I presume that our author means the four of the Vossian collection, which have no place in the Syriac. If so, I would reply that, supposing the three Syriac Epistles to represent the only genuine letters _extant_, these Epistles themselves bear testimony to the fact that Ignatius wrote several others besides; for in one passage in these Syriac Epistles (_Rom._ 4) the martyr says, 'I write to _all the Churches_ and charge _all men_.' And again, when Polycarp writes, [Greek: tas epistolas Ignatious tas pemphtheisas hŕmin hup' autou] it is sufficient to advert to the fact that, like the Latin _epistolŠ_, the plural [Greek: epistolai] is frequently used convertibly with the singular [Greek: epistolŕ] for a single letter [114:1], and indeed appears to be so used in an earlier passage by Polycarp himself of St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians [114:2]; so that the notice is satisfied by the single Epistle to Polycarp which is included in the Syriac letters, and does not necessarily imply also the Epistle to the SmyrnŠans which has no place there. But of this passage generally I would say, that though it may be a question whether the language does not favour the genuineness of the Vossian letters, as against the Curetonian, it cannot be taken to impugn the genuineness of the Epistle of Polycarp itself, authenticated, as this Epistle is, by IrenŠus, and exhibiting, as we have seen, every mark of genuineness in itself.

4. Our author then continues:--

DallŠus pointed out long ago, that ch. xiii abruptly interrupts the conclusion of the Epistle.

In what sense this chapter can be said to interrupt the conclusion it is difficult to say. It occupies exactly the place which would naturally be assigned to such personal matters; for it follows upon the main purport of the letter, while it immediately precedes the recommendation of the bearer and the final salutation. On the same showing the conclusion of the greater number of St Paul's Epistles is 'abruptly interrupted.'

5. The next argument is of another kind:--

The writer vehemently denounces, as already widely spread, the Gnostic heresy and other forms of false doctrine which did not exist until the time of Marcion, to whom and to whose followers he refers in unmistakable terms. An expression is used in ch. vii in speaking of these heretics, which Polycarp is reported by IrenŠus to have actually applied to Marcion in person, during his stay in Rome about A.D. 160. He is said to have called Marcion 'the first-born of Satan,' ([Greek: pr˘totokos tou Satana]), and the same term is employed in this Epistle with regard to every one who holds such false doctrines. The development of these heresies, therefore, implies a date for the composition of the Epistle, at earliest, after the middle of the second century, a date which is further confirmed by other circumstances.

I will take the latter part of this statement first, correcting however one or two errors of detail. M. Waddington's investigations, to which I have already alluded [115:1], oblige us to place Polycarp's visit to Rome some few years before 160, since his death is fixed at A.D. 155 or 156. Again, IrenŠus does not state that the interview between Polycarp and Marcion took place at Rome. It may have taken place there, but it may have occurred at an earlier date in Asia Minor, of which region Marcion was a native [115:2]. These however are not very important matters. The point of the indictment lies in the fact that about A.D. 140, earlier or later, Polycarp is reported to have applied the expression 'first-born of Satan' to Marcion, while in the Epistle, purporting to have been written many years before, he appears as using this same expression of other Gnostic teachers. This argument is a good illustration of the reasons which satisfy even men like Lipsius and Hilgenfeld. To any ordinary judicial mind, I imagine, this coincidence, so far as it goes, would appear to point to Polycarp as the author of the Epistle; for the two facts come to us on independent authority--the one from oral tradition through IrenŠus, the other in a written document older than IrenŠus. Or, if the one statement arose out of the other, the converse relation of that which this hypothesis assumes is much more probable. IrenŠus, as he tells us in the context, was acquainted with the Epistle, and it is quite possible that in repeating the story of Polycarp's interview with Marcion he inadvertently imported into it the expression which he had read in the Epistle. But the independence of the two is far more probable. As a fact, men do repeat the same expressions again and again, and this throughout long periods of their lives. Such forms of speech arise out of their idiosyncrasies, and so become part of them. This is a matter of common experience, and in the case of Polycarp we happen to be informed incidentally that he had a habit of repeating favourite expressions. IrenŠus, in a passage already quoted, mentions his exclamation, 'O good God,' as one of these [116:1].

Our author however declares that the passage in the Epistle which contains this expression is directly aimed at Marcion and his followers; and, inasmuch as Marcion can hardly have promulgated his heresy before A.D. 130-140 at the earliest, this fact, if it be a fact, condemns as spurious a work which professes to have been written some years before. But is there anything really characteristic of Marcion in the description? Our author does not explain himself, nor can I find anything which really justifies the statement in the writers to whom I am referred in his footnote. I turn therefore to the words themselves--

For every one who doth not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist; and whosoever doth not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverteth the oracles of the Lord to (serve) his own lusts, and saith that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, this man is a first-born of Satan [116:2].

To illustrate the relation of these denunciations to Marcionite doctrine, I will suppose a parallel. I take up a book written by a Nonconformist, and I find in it an attack (I am not concerned with the truth or falsehood of the opinions attacked) on the doctrines of episcopal succession, of sacramental grace, of baptismal regeneration, and the like. It is wholly silent about claims to Papal domination, about infallibility, about purgatory and indulgences, about the worship of the Virgin or of the Saints. Am I justified in concluding that the writer is 'referring in unmistakable terms' to the Church of Rome, because the Church of Rome, in common with the majority of Churches, holds the doctrines attacked? Would not any reasonable man draw the very opposite inference, and conclude that the writer cannot mean the Church of Rome, because there is absolute silence about the distinctive tenets of that Church?

So it is here. Marcion, in common with almost all Gnostic sects, held some views which are here attacked. But Marcion had also doctrines of his own, sharp, trenchant, and startling. Marcion taught that the God of the New Testament was a distinct being from the God of the Old, whom he identified with the God of Nature; that these two Gods were not only distinct but antagonistic; that there was an irreconcilable, internecine feud between them; and that Jesus Christ came from the good God to rescue men from the God of Nature and of the Jews. This was the head and front of his offending; and consequently a common charge against him with orthodox writers is that he 'blasphemes God.' [117:1] Of this there is not a hint in Polycarp's denunciation. Again, Marcion rejected the authority of the Twelve, denouncing them as false Apostles, and he confined his Canon to St Paul's Epistles and to a Pauline Gospel. Again, Marcion prohibited marriage, and even refused to baptize married persons. On these points also Polycarp is silent.

But indeed the case against this hypothesis is much stronger than would appear from the illustration which I have used. Not only is there nothing specially characteristic of Marcion in the heresy or heresies denounced by Polycarp, not only were the doctrines condemned held by divers other teachers besides, but some of the charges are quite inapplicable to him. The passage in question denounces three forms of heretical teaching, which may or may not have been combined in one sect. Of these the first, 'Whosoever doth not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh,' is capable of many interpretations. It way refer, for instance, to the separationism of Cerinthus, who maintained that the spiritual Being Christ descended on the man Jesus after the baptism, and left Him before the crucifixion, so that, while Jesus suffered, Christ remained impassible [118:1]; or it may describe the pure docetism, which maintained that our Lord's body was a mere phantom body, so that His birth and life and death alike were only apparent, and not real [118:2]; or it may have some reference different from either. I cannot myself doubt that the expression is borrowed from the First Epistle of St John, and there it seems to refer to Cerinthus, the contemporary of the Apostle [118:3]; but Polycarp may have used it with a much wider reference. Under any circumstances, though it would no doubt apply to Marcion, who held strong docetic views, it would apply to almost every sect of Gnostics besides. The same may be said of the second position attacked, 'Whosoever doth not confess the testimony of the cross,' which might include not only divers Gnostic sects, but many others as well. But the case is wholly different with the third, 'Whosoever perverteth the oracles of the Lord to (serve) his own lusts, and saith that there is neither resurrection nor judgment.' To this type of error, and this only, the description 'first-born of Satan' is applied in the text, and of this I venture to say that it is altogether inapplicable to Marcion. No doubt Marcion, like every other heretical teacher of the second century, or indeed of any century, did 'pervert the oracles of the Lord' by his tortuous interpretations; but he did not pervert them 'to his own lusts.' The high moral character of Marcion was unimpeachable, and is recognized by the orthodox writers of the second century; the worst charge which they bring against him is disappointed ambition. He was an ascetic of the most uncompromising and rigorous type. I cannot but regard it as a significant fact that when Scholten wishes to fasten this denunciation on Marcion, he stops short at 'pervert the oracles of the Lord,' and takes no account of the concluding words 'to his own lusts,' though these contain the very sting of the accusation [119:1]. Obviously the allusion here is to that antinomian license which many early Gnostic teachers managed to extract from the spiritual teaching of the Gospel. We find germs of this immoral doctrine a full half century before the professed date of Polycarp's Epistle, in the incipient Gnosticism which St Paul rebukes at Corinth [119:2]. We have still clearer indications of it in the Pastoral Epistles; and when we reach the epoch of the Apocalypse, which our author himself places somewhere in the year 68 or 69, the evil is almost full blown [119:3]. This interpretation becomes more evident when we consider the expression in the light of the accompanying clause, where the same persons are described as saying that there was 'no resurrection nor judgment.' This can hardly mean anything else than that they denied the doctrine of a future retribution, and so broke loose from the moral restraints imposed by fear of consequences. Here again, they had their forerunners in those licentious speculators belonging to the Christian community at Corinth who maintained that 'there is no resurrection of the dead,' [120:1] and whose Epicurean lives were a logical consequence of their Epicurean doctrine. And here, too, the Pastoral Epistles supply a pertinent illustration. If we are at a loss to conceive how they could have extracted such a doctrine out of 'the oracles of the Lord,' the difficulty is explained by the parallel case of HymenŠus and Philetus, who taught that 'the resurrection had already taken place,' [120:2] or in other words, that all such terms must be understood in a metaphorical sense as applying to the spiritual change, the new birth or resuscitation of the believer in the present world'. Thus everything hangs together. But such teaching is altogether foreign to Marcion. He did indeed deny the resurrection of the flesh, and the future body of the redeemed [120:4]. This was a necessary tenet of all Gnostics, who held the inherent malignity of matter. In this sense only he denied a resurrection; and he did not deny a judgment at all. Holding, like the Catholic Christian, that men would be rewarded or punished hereafter according to their deeds in this life, he was obliged to recognize a judgment in some form or other. His Supreme God indeed, whom he represented as pure beneficence, could not be a judge or an avenger, but he got over the difficulty by assigning the work of judging and punishing to the Demiurge [120:5]. To revert to my illustration, this is as though our Nonconformist writer threw out a charge of Erastianism against the anonymous body of Christians whom he was attacking, and whom nevertheless it was sought to identify with the Church of Rome.

6. The next argument is of a wholly different kind:--

The writer evidently assumes a position in the Church to which Polycarp could only have attained in the latter part of his life, and of which we first have evidence about A.D. 160, when he was deputed to Rome for the Paschal discussion.

This argument will not appeal to Englishmen with any power, when they remember that the ablest and most powerful Prime Minister whom constitutional England has seen assumed the reins of government at the early age of twenty-four. But Polycarp was not a young man at this time. M. Waddington's investigations here again stand us in good stead. If we take the earlier date of the martyrdom of Ignatius, Polycarp was now in his fortieth year at least; if the later date, he was close upon fifty. He had been a disciple, apparently a favourite disciple, of the aged Apostle St John. He was specially commended by Ignatius, who doubtless had spoken of him to the Philippians. History does not point to any person after the death of Ignatius whose reputation stood nearly so high among his contemporaries. So far as any inference can be drawn from silence, he was now the one prominent man in the Church. What wonder then that the Philippians should have asked him to write to them? To this request, I suppose, our author refers when he speaks of the writer 'assuming a position in the Church;' for there is nothing else to justify it. On his own part Polycarp writes with singular modesty. He associates his presbyters with himself in the opening address; he says that he should not have ventured to write as he does, if he had not received a request from the Philippians; he even deprecates any assumption of superiority [121:1].

7. But our author continues:--

And throughout, the Epistle depicts the developed organization of that period.

This argument must, I think, strike any one who has read the Epistle as surprising. There is, as I have said already, no reference to episcopacy from beginning to end [122:1]; and in this respect it presents the strongest contrast to writings of the age of IrenŠus, to which it is here supposed to belong. IrenŠus and his contemporaries are so familiar with episcopacy as a traditional institution, that they are not aware of any period when it was not universal; and more especially when they are dealing with heretics, they appeal to the episcopate as the depositary of the orthodox and Apostolic tradition in matters of doctrine and practice. The absence of all such language in Polycarp's Epistle is a strong testimony to its early date.

8. Lastly, another argument is alleged:--

Hilgenfeld has pointed out another indication of the same date, in the injunction 'Pray for the kings' (Orate pro regibus), which, in 1 Peter ii. 17, is 'Honour the king' ([Greek: ton basilea timate]), which accords with the period after Antoninus Pius had elevated Marcus Aurelius to joint sovereignty (A.D. 147), or better still, with that in which Marcus Aurelius appointed Lucius Verus his colleague, A.D. 161.

Here we have only to ask why _Orate pro regibus_ should be translated 'Pray for _the_ kings,' rather than 'Pray for kings,' and the ghost of a divided sovereignty vanishes before the spell. There is no reason whatever for supposing that the expression has anything more than a general reference. Even if the words had stood in the original [Greek: huper t˘n basile˘n] and not [Greek: huper basile˘n], the presence of the article would not, according to ordinary Greek usage, necessarily limit the reference to any particular sovereigns. But there is very good reason for believing that the definite article had no place in the original. The writer of this Epistle elsewhere shows acquaintance with the First Epistle to Timothy. Thus in one place (ž 4), he combines two passages which occur in close proximity in that Epistle; 'The love of money is the source of all troubles (1 Tim. vi. 10): knowing therefore that we brought nothing into the world, neither are we able to carry anything out (1 Tim. vi. 7), let us arm ourselves' etc. Hence it becomes highly probable that he has derived this injunction also from the same Epistle; 'I exhort first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority' (ii. 2) [123:1], where it is [Greek: huper basile˘n]. After his manner, Polycarp combines this with other expressions that he finds in the Evangelical and Apostolical writings (Ephes. vi. 18, Matt. v. 44, Phil. iii. 18), and gives the widest possible range to his injunction; 'Pray for all the saints; pray also for kings and potentates and princes, and for them that persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross, etc.' We may therefore bid farewell to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.

Our author at the outset speaks of 'some critics who affirm the authenticity of the Epistle attributed to him [Polycarp], but who certainly do not justify their conclusion by any arguments nor attempt to refute adverse reasons.' He himself passes over in silence all answers which have been given to the objections alleged by him. Doubtless he considered them unworthy of notice. I have endeavoured to supply this lacuna in his work; and the reader will judge for himself on which side the weight of argument lies.

The author of _Supernatural Religion_ in his Reply, which appeared in the January number of the _Fortnightly Review_, pointed out two inaccuracies in my first article. In adverting to his silence respecting the occurrence of the Logos in the Apocalypse [123:2], I ought to have confined my remark to the portion of his work in which he is contrasting the doctrinal teaching of this book with that of the Apocalypse, where especially some mention of it was to be expected. He has elsewhere alluded, as his references show, to the occurrence of the term in the Apocalypse. The other point relates to the passage in which he charges Dr Westcott with insinuating in an underhand way what he knew not to be true respecting Basilides. While commenting on his omission of Dr Westcott's inverted commas in the extract which I gave [124:1], I overlooked the fact that he had just before quoted Dr Westcott's text correctly, as it stands in Dr Westcott's book. Though I find it still more difficult to understand how he could have brought this most unwarrantable charge when the fact of Dr Westcott's inverted commas was distinctly before him, I am not the less bound to plead guilty of an oversight, which I think I can explain to myself but which I shall not attempt to excuse, and to accept the retort of looseness, which he throws back upon me.

For the rest, I could not desire a more complete vindication of my criticisms than that which is furnished by the author's reply.

I cannot, for instance, take any blame to myself for not foreseeing the misprints which our author pleads, because they must have baffled far higher powers of divination than mine. Thus I found [124:2] the author stating that the fourth Evangelist 'only once distinguishes John the Baptist by the appellation [Greek: ho baptistŕs],' [124:3] whereas, as a matter of fact, he never does so; and comparing the whole sentence with a passage in Credner [124:4], to which the author refers in his footnote, I found that it presented a close parallel, as the reader will see:--

Wńhrend der Verfasser die           | He [the author] _only once_
beiden Apostel gleiches Namens,     | distinguishes John the Baptist
Judas, sorgfńltig unterscheidet     | by the appellation [Greek: ho
(vergl. 14, 22), den Ap. Thomas     | baptistŕs], whilst he carefully
nńher bezeichnet (11, 16; 20, 24;   | distinguishes the two disciples
21, 2) und den Apostel Petrus,      | of the name of Judas, and always
nur Simon Petrus, oder Petrus,      | speaks of the Apostle Peter as
nie Simon allein nennt (s. ž 96,    | 'Simon Peter,' or 'Peter,' but
Nr. 3.), hat er es nicht fŘr n÷thig | rarely as 'Simon' only.
gefunden, den Tńufer Johannes       |
von dem gleichnamigen Apostel       |
Johannes _auch nur ein einziges     |
Mal_ durch den Zusatz [Greek: ho    |
baptistŕs] zu unterscheiden         |
(1, 6. 15. 19. 26, etc.).           |

Seeing that the two passages corresponded so closely [125:1] the one to the other (the clauses however being transposed), I imagined that I had traced his error to its source in the correspondence of the two particular expressions which I have italicized, and that he must have stumbled over Credner's 'auch nur ein einziges Mal.' He has more than once gone wrong elsewhere in matters of fact relating to the New Testament. Thus he has stated that the saying about the first being last and the last first occurs in St Matthew alone of the Synoptic Gospels, though it appears also in St Mark (x. 31) and (with an unimportant variation) in St Luke (xiii. 30) [125:2]. Thus again, he can remember 'no instance whatever' where a New Testament writer 'claims to have himself performed a miracle [125:3],' though St Paul twice speaks of his exercising this power as a recognized and patent fact [125:4]. This explanation of his mistake therefore seemed to me to be tolerably evident. I could not have foreseen that, where the author wrote '_never_ once,' the printer printed '_only_ once.' This error runs through all the four editions.

But the other clerical error which our author pleads was still further removed from the possibility of detection. I had called attention [125:5] to the fact that, in the earlier part of his book, our author had written respecting the descent of the angel at Bethesda (John v. 3, 4)--

This passage is not found in the older MSS of the fourth Gospel, and it was probably a later interpolation [126:1].

whereas towards the end of his second volume he had declared that the passage was genuine; and I had pointed out that the last words stood 'certainly a late interpolation' in the first edition, so that the passage had undergone revision, while yet the contradiction had been suffered to remain.

In justice to our author, I will give his reply in his own words:--

The words 'it is argued that' were accidentally omitted from vol. i. p. 113, line 19, and the sentence should read, 'and it is argued that it was probably a later interpolation [126:2].'

To this the following note is appended:--

I altered 'certainly' to 'probably' in the second edition, as Dr Lightfoot points out, in order to avoid the possibility of exaggeration, but my mind was so impressed with the certainty that I had clearly shown I was merely, for the sake of fairness, reporting the critical judgment of others, that I did not perceive the absence of the words given above.

This omission runs through four editions.

But more perplexing still is the author's use of language.

The reader will already have heard enough of the passage in IrenŠus, where this Father quotes some earlier authority or authorities who refer to the fourth Gospel; but I am compelled to allude to it again. In my first article I had accused the author of ignoring the distinction between the infinitive and indicative--between the oblique and direct narrative--and maintaining, in defiance of grammar, that the words might very well be IrenŠus' own [126:3]. In my second article I pointed out that whole sentences were tacitly altered or re-written or omitted in the fourth edition, and that (as I unhesitatingly inferred) he had found out his mistake [126:4]. I have read over the passage carefully again in its earlier form in the light of the explanation which the author gives in his reply, and I cannot put any different interpretation on his language. It seems to me distinctly to aim at proving two things: (1) That there is no reason for thinking that the passage is oblique at all, or that IrenŠus is giving anything else besides his own opinion (pp. 326-331); and (2) That, even supposing it to be oblique, there is no ground for identifying the authorities quoted with the presbyters of Papias (pp. 331-334). With this last question I have not concerned myself hitherto. It will come under discussion in a later article, when I shall have occasion to treat of Papias [127:1]. It was to the first point alone that my remarks referred. The author however says in his reply that his meaning was the same throughout, that he knew all the while IrenŠus must be quoting from some one else, and that he 'did what was possible to attract attention to the actual indirect construction.' [127:2] Why then did he translate the oblique construction as if it were direct? Why, after quoting as parallels a number of direct sentences in IrenŠus containing quotations, did he add, 'These are all direct quotations by IrenŠus, as is most certainly that which we are now considering, which is introduced in precisely the same way?' [127:3] Why in his fourth edition, in which he first introduces a recognition of the oblique construction, did he withdraw all these supposed parallels, which, if his opinion was unchanged, still remained as good for his purpose (whatever that purpose might be) as they had ever been? Further discussion on this point would obviously be wasted. I can only ask any reader who is interested in this matter to refer to the book itself, and more especially to compare the fourth [128:1] with the earlier editions, that he may judge for himself whether any other interpretation, except that which I and others besides myself [128:2] have put upon his words, was natural. The author has declared his meaning, but I could only judge by his language.

I now proceed to notice some other of the chief points in our author's reply; and perhaps it may be convenient in doing so to follow the order adopted in my original article to which it is a rejoinder.

1. In the first place then, the author is annoyed that I spoke disparagingly of his scholarship [128:3]; and in reply he says that the criticism in which I have indulged 'scarcely rises above the correction of an exercise or the conjugation of a verb.' [128:4] I cannot help thinking this language unfortunate from his own point of view; but let that pass. If the reader will have the goodness to refer back to my article, he will find that, so far from occupying the main part of it on points of scholarship which have no bearing on the questions under discussion, as the author seems to hint, I have taken up about two-thirds of a page only [128:5] with such matters. In the other instances which I have selected, his errors directly affect the argument for the time being at some vital point. It would have been possible to multiply examples, if examples had been needed. I might have quoted, for instance, such renderings as [Greek: katabas peripateit˘] 'come down let him walk about [129:1];' or [Greek: Iousta tis en hŕmin esti Surophoinikissa, to genos Chananitis, hŕs to Thugatrion k.t.l.] 'Justa, who is amongst us, a Syrophoenician, a Canaanite by race, whose daughter' etc. [129:2] Both these renderings survive to the fourth edition.

I must not however pass over the line of defence which our author takes, though only a few words will be necessary. I do not see that he has gained anything by sheltering himself behind others, when he is obviously in the wrong. Not a legion of Tischendorfs, for instance, can make [Greek: epangellomenon] signify 'has promised,' [129:3] though it is due to Tischendorf to add that notwithstanding his loose translation he has seen through the meaning of Origen's words, and has not fastened an error upon himself by a false interpretation, as our author has done. And in other cases, where our author takes upon himself the responsibility of his renderings, his explanations are more significant than the renderings themselves. Scholars will judge whether a scholar, having translated _quem caederet_ [129:4], 'whom he mutilates,' could have brought himself to defend it as a 'paraphrase' [129:5]. I am not at all afraid that dispassionate judges hereafter will charge me with having unduly depreciated his scholarship.

But our author evidently thinks that the point was not worth establishing at all. I cannot agree with him. I feel sure that, if he had been dealing with some indifferent matter, as for instance some question of classical literature, he would not have received any more lenient treatment from independent reviewers; and I do not see why the greater importance of the subject should be pleaded as a claim for immunity from critical examination. It does not seem to me to be a light matter that an author assuming, as the author of _Supernatural Religion_ does, a tone of lofty superiority over those whom he criticizes, should betray an ignorance of the very grammar of criticism. But in the present case there was an additional reason why attention should be called to these defects. It was necessary to correct a wholly false estimate of the author's scholarship with which reviewers had familiarized the public, and to divest the work of a prestige to which it was not entitled.

2. In the next place I ventured to dispute the attribute of impartiality with which the work entitled _Supernatural Religion_ had been credited. And here I would say that my quarrel was much more with the author's reviewers than with the author himself. I can understand how he should omit to entertain the other side of the question with perfect sincerity. It appeared from the book itself, and it has become still more plain from the author's Reply, that he regards 'apologists' as persons from whom he has nothing to learn, and with whose arguments therefore he need not for the most part concern himself. But the fact remains that the reader has had an _ex parte_ statement presented to him, while he has been assured that the whole case is laid before him.

Of this one-sided representation I adduced several instances. To these our author demurs in his reply. As regards Polycarp, I believe that the present article has entirely justified my allegation. Of Papias, Hegesippus, and Justin, I shall have occasion to speak in subsequent articles. At present it will be sufficient to challenge attention to what Dr Westcott has written on the last-mentioned writer, and ask readers to judge for themselves whether our author has laid the case impartially before them.

Several of my examples had reference to the Gospel of St. John. Of these our author has taken exception more especially to three.

As regards the first, I have no complaint to make, because he has quoted my own words, and I am well content that they should tell their own tale. If our author considers the argument 'unsound in itself, and irrelevant to the direct purpose of the work,' [131:1] I venture to think that discerning readers will take a different view. I had directed attention [131:2] to certain passages in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. xxiii. 37; Luke xiii. 34) as implying other visits to Jerusalem which these Gospels do not themselves record, and therefore as refuting the hypothesis that our Lord's ministry was only of a single year's duration, and was exercised wholly in Galilee and the neighbourhood until the closing visit to Jerusalem--a hypothesis which rests solely on the arbitrary assumption that the record in the Synoptists is complete and continuous. Thus the supposed difficulty in St John's narrative on this fundamental point of history disappears. In fact the Synoptists give no continuous chronology in the history of our Lord's ministry between the baptism and the passion; the incidents were selected in the first instance (we may suppose) for purposes of catechetical instruction, and are massed together sometimes by connection of subject, sometimes (though incidentally) by sequence of time. In St. John, on the other hand, the successive festivals at Jerusalem are the vertebrŠ of the chronological backbone, which is altogether wanting to the account of Christ's ministry in the Synoptists. We cannot indeed be sure even here that the vertebrŠ are absolutely continuous; many festivals may have been omitted; the ministry of Christ may have extended over a much longer period, as indeed IrenŠus asserts that it did [131:3]; but the three passovers bear testimony to a duration of between two and three years at the least.

The second point has reference to the diction of the fourth Gospel, as compared with the Apocalypse [131:4]. Here I am glad to find that there is less difference of opinion between us than I had imagined. If our author does not greatly differ from Luthardt's estimate of the language, neither do I [132:1]. On the other hand, I did not deny, and (so far as I am aware) nobody has denied, that there is a marked difference between the Apocalypse and the Gospel, in respect of diction; only it is contended that two very potent influences must be taken into account which will explain this difference. In the first place, the subjects of the two books stand widely apart. The apocalyptic purport of the one book necessarily tinges its diction and imagery with a very strong Hebraic colouring, which we should not expect to find in a historical narrative. Secondly, a wide interval of time separates the two works. The Apocalypse was written, according to the view which our author represents 'as universally accepted by all competent critics,' about A.D. 68, 69 [132:2]. It marks the close of what we may call the _Hebraic_ period of St John's life--_i.e._, the period which (so far as we can gather alike from the notices and from the silence of history) he had spent chiefly in the East and among Aramaic-speaking peoples. The Gospel on the other hand, according to all tradition, dates from the last years of the Apostle's life, or, in other words, it was written (or more probably dictated) at the end of the _Hellenic_ period, after an interval of twenty or thirty years, during which St John had lived at Ephesus, a great centre of Greek civilization. Our author appears to be astonished that Luthardt should describe the 'errors' in the Apocalypse as not arising out of ignorance, but as 'intentional emancipations from the rules of grammar.' Yet it stands to reason, I think, that this must be so with some of the most glaring examples at all events. A moment's reflection will show that one who could write [Greek: apo ho ˘n, k.t.l.], 'from He that is,' etc. (Rev. i. 4), in sheer ignorance that [Greek: apo] does not take a nominative case, would be incapable of writing any two or three consecutive verses of the Apocalypse. The book, after all allowance made for solecisms, shows a very considerable command of the Greek vocabulary, and (what is more important) a familiarity with the intricacies of the very intricate syntax of this language.

On the third point, to which our author devotes between three and four pages, more explanation is required. I had remarked [133:1] on the manner in which our author deals with the name 'Sychar' in the fourth Gospel, and had complained that he only discusses the theory of its identification with Shechem, omitting to mention more probable solutions. To this remark I had appended the following note:

Travellers and 'apologists' alike now more commonly identify Sychar with the village bearing the Arabic name Askar. This fact is not mentioned by our author. He says moreover, 'It is admitted that there was no such place [as Sychar [Greek: Suchar]], and apologetic ingenuity is severely taxed to explain the difficulty.' _This is altogether untrue_. Others besides 'apologists' point to passages in the Talmud which speak of 'the well of Suchar (or Sochar, or Sichar);' see Neubauer, 'La GÚographie du Talmud,' p. 169 sq. Our author refers in his note to an article by Delitzsch ('Zeitschr. f. Luth. Theol.' 1856, p. 240 sq). _He cannot have read the article, for these Talmudic references are its main purport._

Our author in his reply quotes this note, and italicizes the passages as they are printed here. I am glad that he has done so, for I wish especially to call attention to the connection between the two. He adds that 'an apology is surely due to the readers of the _Contemporary Review_,' and, as he implies, to himself, 'for this style of criticism,' to which he says that he is not accustomed [133:2].

I am not sorry that this rejoinder has obliged me to rescue from the obscurity of a footnote a fact of real importance in its bearing on the historical character of the fourth Gospel. As for apologizing, I will most certainly apologize, if he wishes it. But I must explain myself first. I am surprised that this demand should be made by the same person who penned certain sentences in _Supernatural Religion_. I am not a little perplexed to understand what canons of controversial etiquette he would lay down; for, while I have merely accused him, in somewhat blunt language, of great carelessness, he has not scrupled to charge others with 'wilful and deliberate evasion,' with 'unpardonable calculation upon the ignorance of his readers,' with 'a deliberate falsification,' with 'disingenuousness' [134:1] and other grave moral offences of the same kind. Now I have been brought up in the belief that offences of this class are incomparably more heinous than the worst scholarship or the grossest inaccuracy; and I am therefore obliged to ask whether he is not imposing far stricter rules on others than he is prepared to observe himself, when he objects to what I have said. Nevertheless I will apologize; but I cannot do so without reluctance, for he is asking me to withdraw an explanation which seemed to me to place his mode of proceeding in the most favourable light, and to substitute for it another which I should not have ventured to suggest. When I saw in his text the unqualified statement, 'It is admitted that there was no such place,' [134:2] and found in one of his footnotes on the same page a reference to an article by an eminent Hebraist devoted to showing that such a place is mentioned several times in the Talmud, I could draw no other conclusion than that he had not read the article in question, or (as I might have added), having read it, had forgotten its contents. The manner in which references are given elsewhere in this work, as I have shown in my article on the Ignatian Epistles, seemed to justify this inference. His own explanation however is quite different.--

My statement is, that it is admitted that there was no such place as Sychar--I ought to have added, 'except by apologists, who never admit anything'--but I thought that in saying, 'and apologetic ingenuity is severely taxed to explain the difficulty,' I had sufficiently excepted apologists, and indicated that many assertions and conjectures are advanced by them for that purpose.

Certainly this qualifying sentence needed to be added; for no reader could have supposed that the author intended his broad statement to be understood with this all-important reservation. Unfortunately however this explanation is not confined to 'apologists.' As I pointed out, it is adopted by M. Neubauer also, who (unless I much mistake his position) would altogether disclaim being considered an apologist, but who nevertheless, being an honest man, sets down his honest opinion, without considering whether it will or will not tend to establish the credibility of the Evangelist.

But after all, the really important question for the reader is not what this or that person thinks on this question, but what are the facts. And here I venture to say that, when our author speaks of 'assertions and conjectures' in reference to Delitzsch's article, such language is quite misleading. The points which the Talmudical passages quoted by him establish are these:--

(1) A place called 'Suchar,' or 'Sychar,' is mentioned in the Talmud. Our author speaks of 'some vague references in the Talmud to a somewhat similar, but not identical, name.' But the fact is, that the word [Greek: Suchar], if written in Hebrew letters, would naturally take one or other of the two forms which we find in the Talmud, [Hebrew: Sukh'r] (Suchar) or [Hebrew: Sykh'r] (Sychar). In other words, the transliteration is as exact as it could be. It would no doubt be possible to read the former word 'Socher,' and the latter 'Sicher,' because the vowels are indeterminate within these limits. But so far as identity was possible, we have it here.

(2) The Talmudical passages speak not only of 'Sychar,' but of 'Ayin-Sychar,' _i.e._, 'the Well of Sychar.'

(3) The 'Well of Sychar' which they mention is in a corn-growing country. This is clear from the incident which leads to the mention of the place in the two principal Talmudical passages where it appears, _Baba Kamma_ 82b, _Menachoth_ 64b. It is there stated that on one occasion, when the lands in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem were laid waste by war, and no one knew whence the two loaves of the Pentecostal offering, the first-fruits of the wheat harvest, could be procured, they were obliged ultimately to bring them from 'the valley of the Well of Sychar.' Now the country which was the scene of the interview with the Samaritan woman is remarkable in this respect--'one mass of corn, unbroken by boundary or hedge'[136:1]--as it is described by a modern traveller; and indeed the prospect before Him suggests to our Lord, as we may well suppose, the image which occurs in the conversation with the disciples immediately following--'Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.' [136:2] It is true that the Talmudical passages do not fix the locality of their 'Ayin-Sychar;' but all the circumstances agree. It was just from such a country as this (neither too near nor too far distant for the notices) that the Pentecostal loaves would be likely to be procured in such an emergency.

The reader will draw his own conclusions. He will judge for himself whether the unqualified statement, 'It is admitted that there was no such place as Sychar,' is or is not misleading. He will form his own opinion whether a writer, who deliberately ignores these facts, because they are brought forward by 'apologists who never admit anything,' is likely to form an impartial judgment.

The identification of Sychar with Askar, to which recent opinion has been tending, is a question of less importance. Notwithstanding the difficulty respecting the initial _Ain_ in the latter word, an identification which has commended itself to Oriental scholars like Ewald and Delitzsch and Neubauer can hardly be pronounced impossible. I venture to suggest that the initial Ain of 'Askar' may be explained by supposing the word to be a contraction for _Ayin-Sychar_, the 'Well of Sychar.' This corruption of the original name into a genuine Arabic word would furnish another example of a process which is common where one language is superposed upon another, _e.g._, Charter-house for Chartreuse.

3. The third point to which I called attention [137:1] was the author's practice of charging those from whom he disagreed with dishonesty. This seemed to me to be a very grave offence, which deserved to be condemned by all men alike, whatever their opinions might be. And in the present instance I considered that the author was especially bound to abstain from such charges, because he had thought fit to shelter himself (as he was otherwise justified in doing) under an anonyme. Moreover, the offence was aggravated by the fact that one of the writers whom he had especially selected for this mode of attack was distinguished for his moderation of tone, and for his generous appreciation of the position and arguments of his adversaries.

This is our author's reply--

Dr Lightfoot says, and says rightly, that 'Dr Westcott's honour may safely be left to take care of itself.' It would have been much better to have left it to take care of itself, indeed, than trouble it by such advocacy. If anything could check just or generous expression, it would be the tone adopted by Dr Lightfoot; but nevertheless, I again say, in the most unreserved manner, that neither in this instance, nor in any other, have I had the most distant intention of attributing 'corrupt motives' to a man like Dr Westcott, whose single-mindedness I recognize, and for whose earnest character I feel genuine respect. The utmost that I have at any time intended to point out is that, utterly possessed as he is by orthodox views in general, and on the Canon in particular, he sees facts, I consider, through a dogmatic medium, and unconsciously imparts his own peculiar colouring to statements which should be more impartially made [137:2].

I am well content to bear this blame when I have elicited this explanation. A great wrong had been done, and I wished to see it redressed. But who could have supposed that this was our author's meaning? Who could have imagined that he had all along felt a 'genuine respect' for the single-mindedness of one whom he accused of 'discreet reserve,' of 'unworthy suppression of the truth,' of 'clever evasion,' of 'ignorant ingenuity or apologetic partiality,' of 'disingenuousness,' of 'what amounts to falsification,' and the like, and whom in the very passage which has called forth this explanation he had charged with yielding to a 'temptation' which was 'too strong for the apologist,' and 'insinuating to unlearned readers' what he knew to be untrue respecting Basilides? This unfortunate use of language, I contend, is no trifling matter where the honour of another is concerned; and, instead of his rebuke, I claim his thanks for enabling him to explain expressions which could only be understood in one way by his readers, and which have so grievously misrepresented his true meaning.

I trust also that our author wishes us to interpret the charges which he has brought against Tischendorf [138:1] in the same liberal spirit. I certainly consider that Tischendorf took an unfortunate step when he deserted his proper work, for which he was eminently fitted, and came forward as an apologist; and, if our author had satisfied himself with attacking the weak points of his apologetic armour, there would have been no ground for complaint, and on some points I should have agreed with him. But I certainly supposed that 'deliberate falsification' meant 'deliberate falsification.' I imagined, as ordinary readers would imagine, that these words involved a charge of conscious dishonesty. I am content to believe now that they were intended to impute to him an unconscious bias.

In our author's observations on my criticism of his general argument, there is one point which seems to call for observation. Of all my remarks, the one sentence which I should least have expected to incur his displeasure, is the following:--

Obviously, if the author has established his conclusions in the first part, the second and third are altogether superfluous [138:2].

I fancied that, in saying this, I was only translating his own opinion into other words. I imagined that he himself wished the second and third parts to be regarded as a work of supererogation. Was I altogether without ground for this belief? I turn to the concluding paragraph of the first part, and I find these words:--

Those who have formed any adequate conception of the amount of testimony which would be requisite in order to establish the reality of occurrences in violation of the order of nature, which is based upon universal and invariable experience, must recognize that, _even if the earliest asserted origin of our four Gospels could be established upon the most irrefragable grounds_, the testimony of the writers--men of like ignorance with their contemporaries, men of like passions with ourselves--_would be utterly incompetent to prove the reality of miracles_ [139:1].

What does this mean, except that even though it should be necessary to concede every point against which the author is contending in the second and third parts, still the belief in the Gospel miracles is irrational? Is the language which I have used at all stronger than our author's own on this point? But I am glad to have elicited from him an expression of opinion that the question is not foreclosed by the arguments in the first part [139:2].

For some expressions in his concluding paragraph I sincerely thank the author, though I find it difficult to reconcile them with either the tone or the substance of the preceding reply. I trust that I have already relieved him from the apprehension that I should confine myself to 'desultory efforts.' I had hoped that some of the topics in my first article might have been laid aside for ever, but his reply has compelled me to revert to them. He does me no more than justice when he credits me with earnestness. I am indeed in earnest, as I believe him to be. But it seems to me that the motives for earnestness are necessarily more intense in my case than in his; for (to say nothing else), as I read history, the morality of the coming generations of Englishmen is very largely dependent on the answers which they give to the questions at issue between us. As he has withheld his name, he has deprived me of the pleasure of reciprocating any expression of personal respect. Thus he has placed me at a great disadvantage. I know nothing of the man, and can speak only of the book. Of the book I would wish to say that one who has taken so much pains to regulate his personal belief is so far entitled to every consideration. And, if this had been all, I should have entertained and expressed the highest respect for him, however faulty his processes might appear to me, and however dangerous his results. But, when I observed that the author, not content with ignoring the facts and reasonings, went on to impugn the honesty of his opponents; when I noticed that again and again the arguments on one side of the question were carefully arrayed, while the arguments on the other side were altogether omitted; when I perceived that he denied the authenticity of every work, and questioned the applicability of every reference, which made against him; when in short I saw that, however sincere the writer's personal convictions might be, the critical portion of the work was stamped throughout with the character of an advocate's _ex parte_ statement, I felt that he had forfeited any claim to special forbearance. For the rest, I do not wish to be unjust to the book, and I am sorry if, while attempting to correct an exceedingly false estimate, I have seemed to any one to be so; but I do not see any good in paying empty and formal compliments which do not come from the heart, and I cannot consent to tamper with truths which seem to me of the highest moment. Still, I should be sorry to think that so much energetic work had been thrown away. If the publication of this book shall have had the effect of attracting serious attention to these most momentous subjects, it will have achieved an important result. But I would wish to add one caution. No good will ever come from merely working on the lines of modern theorists. Perhaps the reader will forgive me if I add a few words of explanation, for I do not wish to be misunderstood. I should be most ungrateful if, in speaking of German writers, I used the language of mere depreciation. If there is any recent theologian from whom I have learnt more than from another, it is the German Neander. Nor can I limit my obligations to men of this stamp. All diligent students of early Christian history must have derived the greatest advantage on special points from the conscientious research, and frequently also from the acute analysis, even of writers of the most extreme school. But it is high time that the incubus of fascinating speculations should be shaken off, and that Englishmen should learn to exercise their judicial faculty independently. Any one who will take the pains to read IrenŠus through carefully, endeavouring to enter into his historical position in all its bearings, striving to realize what he and his contemporaries actually thought about the writings of the New Testament and what grounds they had for thinking it, and, above all, resisting the temptation to read in modern theories between the lines, will be in a more favourable position for judging rightly of the early history of the Canon than if he had studied all the monographs which have issued from the German press during the last half century.


The Anglican Library, This HTML edition copyright ©2001.

Next Chapter

Table of Contents

Keyword Search