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THE HISTORICAL RECORD
N seeking for a thorough and logical knowledge of
the truth, the teaching of the Bible may well and consistently be placed in the foreground as the startingpoint and basis, for the great themes of the Bible are equally the great themes of philosophy.
The most fundamental of these themes are God, Christ, Man, Creation (Nature) and their necessary relation. Self-consciousness, thought, personality reason, and spirit all belong to the nature of God, Christ and man, and to creation in general. It is a matter of direct or immediate knowledge that they all belong to the nature of man, who is the starting-point of philosophy. The truth of Biblical teaching concerning God and Christ and the other great ideas already mentioned, does not depend entirely for proof on the historical record, but can be demonstrated from the philosophy of man's own nature, providing a knowledge and use of the proper clue be obtained. This is found, as previously stated, in a correct knowledge of the Ego.
Yet to disregard the historical record would be most irrational; what is required is to show that the record is in agreement with true philosophy. If I say the historical record is true, such is only an assertory judgment, which may be either true or false ; consequently it is only a problematical judgment, which can only be proved and become an apodictic judgment in and through an absolutely correct, logical process of reasoning. The greater part of our knowledge that pertains to history is not capable of being demonstrated mathematically or logically, and therefore admits of, and depends only or chiefly on, probable evidence"; and because it deals largely with the contingent events of human action and life, whether good or bad, apodictic certainty becomes more wavering the further we go back into the obscurity of the past. Still, we can affirm that all events and deeds recorded of great men and of nations are not mere fiction. In spite of much uncertainty with regard to what is recorded, we are quite sure that such recorded history is not fiction, and that there has been a past history of the world is as certain as that there is a present. Thus a philosophy of history is possible, as certainly as is a philosophy of Being in general. A written revelation from God, wrought out in connection with human history, must necessarily take on a form of externality. A genuine criticism of the Bible demands a sound philosophy, for criticism can never be satisfactory if it is confined to the mere external forms of speech, and treats speculative or logical philosophy with disdain. Perfection of thought can no more be put into the externality of language than a tree can take into itself the conscious rationality of man. The Biblical record is given chiefly in a brief historical form ; even its moral and religious teaching is so interwoven with the narrative that the whole partakes of a historical character.
It is next to impossible to ascertain the genuineness of the historical record given us in the Bible by what the higher critics call the scientific method of investigation, which is simply induction based on analogy
often merely superficial. This course we do not propose to pursue.
Where, and under what circumstances the various books were written, may, within certain limits, be interesting matters of inquiry, but certainly are not the most vital and important so far as a knowledge of the truth of the contents is concerned. Necessarily, a detailed account of human history is unwritten, while much that is written is clouded with great uncertainty, even in relation to what are named the facts of history. The method of studying history, named “Higher Criticism,' which claims to be scientific, tends to throw doubt on the best-established facts of human history. The very nature of historical criticism is enveloped at every point with some uncertainty. What man or woman can, or ever could, write a faithful, unerring record of the facts and details of his or her own life? To write the life of another person is still more difficult. Who can write the life of an average family and show the influence for good or evil each member has had upon the other ? Who can truly write the history of his own particular section of the Christian Church? The under and side-currents of thought are many and deep. In how different a manner do various persons write and read the history of their own country, the histories of the various Churches, and the lives of great reformers and other eminent men. It is the same in the case of the Bible itself. Critics, from slight superficial resemblances, insignificant events, small points of similarity in language and customs in surrounding nations or tribes, will draw wide, sweeping generalizations. The result is that critical experts are continually contradicting each other, because superficial resemblances give scope, not only for 'bold guessing,' but even for drawing opposite conclusions from the
same premises. In this way the fundamental and permanent principles of theology, religion and morality are overlooked and relegated to a subordinate place in human thought and action in religious, political and social life.
Further, to be acquainted with the various readings of the numerous manuscripts of the Scriptures, and to know whether interpolations can be verified, may be useful knowledge, but the substantial truth of the record cannot thereby be refuted or proved. Such an examination could not but be a life-work for any man, and would require every man to go over the same ground to see whether the examination made by others had been carried out honestly and correctly. Even if the correctness of such an examination were ascertained, this could not give a knowledge of the truth and reality of the doctrines taught therein; and a knowledge of the essential doctrines of the Bible is the one vital requirement.
The truth of the Bible doctrines in no way rests on their analogy with doctrines held and taught by nations contiguous to the Hebrew people or nation. Any partial resemblance is no proof of their derivation from surrounding sources, any more than any resemblance of the teaching of the Hebrew prophets to Greek philosophy proves that the prophets derived their teaching from the Greek philosophers, or that the Greeks derived their ideas from the Hebrews. There is certainly a deep and strong resemblance between the NOUS of Anaxagoras and the Logos of the Gospel. The former means mind, understanding, reason, the disposing and arranging principle of the universe; the latter, the Person by whom all things were made, and who became flesh in the person of Christ. Plato says (to quote from Dr. Stirling's Gifford Lectures), 'God, least of all,
should have many parts'; 'God is what is absolutely simple and true.' 'Of this, the All, to find the Maker and Father is difficult, and having found Him, it is impossible to declare Him to all men.' 'When the Father created it, saw it moving and alive, this the created image of the blessed gods, He was well pleased.' Evidently by the' created image' he meant the visible universe. 'The blessed gods' resembles the onlybegotten' of St. John, which is also translated as the Son. Yet in spite of their resemblance, they differ widely in meaning.
Much that is very fine in the writings of Plato and Aristotle closely resembles the teaching of the Bible, but we hesitate not to say that there is no sure evidence that the superior clearness and excellence of the Bible teaching was derived in any direct way from either of these writers.
The Bible doctrines, like the principles of science in nature, are not presented to us in logical forms (at least in one sense), yet the Bible is none the less full of rational or logical thought. The grand old Hebrew prophets were excellent reasoners, although, I suppose, they knew nothing about the science of logic or the syllogisms of Aristotle.
True knowledge is the strict demand of the science of logic, and this is also, throughout, the demand of the Bible. My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.' The priest's lips should keep knowledge.' Thus the Bible teaches, not only that God is known by man, but its chief aim is to impart and enforce an ever-growing knowledge. It teaches that the worst state of a people is when there is no knowledge of God or truth in the land.' Agnosticism, and even 'Christian' agnosticism, is in direct and flagrant oppositon to the