Tuesday, November 24, 2015
A Spiritualist Review of the Bible by Moses Hull 1896
A Spiritualist Review of the Bible by Moses Hull 1896
See also Spiritualism and the Cult of the Dead - 120 Books on DVDrom (Spiritism)
[Moses Hull (1836–1907) was a minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 19th century, who later became a Spiritualist lecturer and author.]
The Bible is, I think, one of the best of the sacred books of the ages. It is supposedly the sacred fountain from which two, if not three of the great religions of the world have flown. The Hebrews base their religion almost wholly on the Old Testament; while Christians think they draw theirs, for the most part, from the New Testament. The Old Testament is used by Christians as a kind of background for their religious theories. Mohammedans add to these two great store-houses of religious dogma the Koran, which is largely based on the Bible, and the Talmud.
While the Bible is not the infallible or immaculate book that many have supposed it to be, no one can deny that it is a great book. For centuries many Christians have made a kind of fetish of it; they have swallowed it whole—have thought it must be accepted or rejected as a book. This idea has borne fruit of various kinds, the most troublesome of which has been the opposite extreme; that is, a large and intelligent class of honest thinkers have rejected the Bible as a whole.
Now, while the Bible can never, with the thinking class, be the fetisch it once was, it can never be driven from its legitimate hold on the hearts of the people. It has changed too many lives for the better to be Wholly rejected.
Paul has said: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.—Phil. 4, 8.
So long as men and women grow to be what they think the most about, so long will the carrying out of such texts as the above make men better.
The Bible has not only a history, but it has fame, it has merit. Its youngest sentences have stood before the world nearly, if not quite seventeen centuries, and during all that time its inspirations have been read and studied much. Yet it must be confessed that the age of critical analysis of all its sayings and of its environments has hardly dawned.
For over one thousand years the Bible was kept from the people; its language was dead, translation of it into the language of the people was not tolerated, and the only way it could reach the people was in small detachments, and as strained through an ignorant and vicious priesthood. In the estimation of the church few crimes were greater than that of trying to read and understand the Bible. It is only three centuries since the Bible existed in the vernacular of the people. Even then its perusal was granted by the dominant church only to keep them from reading those produced by such heretics as Erasmus, Martin Luther and others; and for a long time the Bible was not tolerated except in the vicinities of the Bibles of the Heretics. Even in places where the Bible was tolerated, since the days of Erasmus and Martin Luther, it was taught that the New Testament, when not accompanied by the explanations of the church, was of the devil.
One extreme is likely to follow another; thus, when people were allowed to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, they, knowing little or nothing of its origin, began to swallow it as a whole. Headings of the chapters, divisions of the chapters and verses, and the words which the translators had supplied in italics, all went down together—in the estimation of “the common people” it was all the hand-writing of a God. It soon got so that the man who questioned that the Bible was handed down from heaven just as it is, was a more dangerous heretic than the Bible reader was in the palmy days of Catholicism.
It is hardly a century since the critical study of the Bible began. Even in the last quarter of this nineteenth century such men as Dr. Thomas, Professors Swing, Briggs, Smith, and others are considered sinners of entirely too deep a dye to continue in the fellowship of the popular churches, and all because they believed in, and practiced the “higher criticism.”
Thousands of country ministers, and some city pastors, still go on in their interpretations of the Bible, as though they were as infallible as they suppose the Bible itself to be, never giving any more thought to the newer interpretations than if they had never been brought to light. With them the Bible is all alike true, all alike inspired. I have even heard one of them quote the heading of a chapter as the “inspired word of God.” They regard the Bible as one book, having one author, instead of two-thirds of a hundred books, having more than two score of authors, of different localities, nationalities and centuries. With such, any part of the Bible is as true and as important as any other part; and if one undertakes to explain any portion by the peculiar circumstances and conditions surrounding the writer, he is at once put down as an enemy to the Bible, and if an enemy to the Bible, he is, of course an enemy to God, to the church and everything good.
I am glad to note that on this subject public sentiment is rapidly changing. Even since this chapter was written, a copy of the Rorky Mountain News reaches me containing a report of a discourse delivered by John R. Shannon, D.D., of the Episcopal Church. I quote an extract to show the trend of advanced thought. The reverend gentleman said to his Denver audience:
“Divine inspiration is not monopolized by this library of Hebrew literature. Inspiration has not ceased; the visions of Hebrew seers and prophets are not simply a Past possession of the world; they are the possession of the world now, if there be those to receive these visions. To-day men can see God and know God and receive revelations from God, even as in old times. Moral inspiration has to do with all nations; it has to do with all ages; it is universal; it takes in all those of the human race that are open or competent to receive divine impressions. We do not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible. The dogma that every word of the Bible is supernaturally dictated is false. It ought to be shelved away. Out of that dogma have been hatched stupendous errors that long enough have insulted the majesty of God’s truth. Verbal inspiration is a superstitious theory; it has turned multitudes in disgust from the Bible; it has led thousands into infidelity; it has led to savage theological warfare; it has led men to convert the sweet beauty and tranquil scenes of the Bible into a great battlefield over which controversial war has raged with fierceness; it has buried the Bible under theological rubbish.”
In the study of the Bible several things should be borne in mind, a few of which I will mention.
Ist. We are only reading one of the numerous Bibles of the world, all of which lay claim to in— spiration, and all of which are sincerely believed by honest and intelligent people to have come from God.
The Bible is a collection of ancient books. In fact it was not called the Bible until five hundred years after Christ, but was called the Bibles. The phrase was not Ton Biblion, but Ta Biblia. Instead of being regarded as “the book," it was a collection of books written by different authors in different centuries before and after Christ.
Some suppose the church was builded on the Bible; this is not true—the Bible was made by the church. The church regarded it as its property for its exclusive use, and thought it so dangerous a weapon to put in the hands of those not authorized by its functionaries to read it, that it anathematized those who read it. Even so late as the fifteenth century, the New Testament when in the wrong hands was, in the estimation of the Catholic clergy, of the devil.
2d. The book we are reading is only one of the numerous translations of old Hebrew and Greek documents, the originals of which in every instance has been irrecoverably lost,-—documents which all confess are competing with more counterfeits than ever confronted any genuine bank note in the world ever had.
3d. So far as the-Old Testament is concerned, the most of it is written in solid blocks of capital Hebrew consonant letters,—not a vowel in the whole book. It was not even divided into chapters or sentences. There were no marks separating one word from another. Furthermore, it is written in a language which is absolutely dead. No man living, nor no man who has lived within the last thousand years could read a sentence of the original Old Testament if it could be found. On this point it may not be amiss to quote a few testimonies.
Henry Craik says in the Ecclesiastical Magazine, April, 1881:
“In 1508, at the early dawn of the reformation, John Reuchlin compiled the first dictionary and grammar of any real value (of the Hebrew language), excepting such as had at an earlier period been composed by jewish grammarians.”
The Christian Spectator, vol. iii. p. 236, said: “The vowel points are not very ancient.”
“The most sacred copies of the scriptures, which the Jews deposited in their synagogues, are, and ever have been, without points.”—Ibid, p. 237.
Bishop Marsh, in his Fourteenth Lecture, says:
“The Old Testament is the only work which remains in the ancient Hebrew, nor have we anything like a lexicon or glossary composed while it was yet a living language.”
Godfrey Higgins said: “I am quite certain that I shall be able to show, to prove that every letter of the Hebrew language has four and probably five meanings.”
Le Clerc affirms, in his Sentium, p. 156, that “the learned merely guess at the sense of the Old Testament in an infinity of places, which produces a prodigious number of discordant interpretations."
St. Jerome, in his Commentary on the Fortieth Chapter of Ezekiel, says: “When we translate Hebrew into Latin we are sometimes guided by conjecture.”
As an illustration, the “Inquirer’s Text Book” has the following on Noah’s ark:
“Our version says it was made of gopher wood, Oukelhos translates it as made of cedar, Castellus says it was juniper, the Arabic commentators declare that it was boxwood, the Persians say it was pine wood, the celebrated Bochart affirms that it was ebony, and Dr. Geddes affirms that it was wicker-work, while Dawson says it was made of bulrushes and daubed with slime.”
Giles’ Hebrew and Christian Records says:
“Vowel points were not invented before the second century. The present Hebrew letters are later than the Christian era.”
4th. With the New Testament the difficulties were in some respects even greater than with the Old. While there was absolutely no original Greek, there were over one hundred and fifty thousand readings of the Greek, every one of which differed from each of the others. And yet many texts were wanting, and they were compelled in many instances to translate from the Latin Vulgate back into the Greek, before they could render the New Testament from the Greek into the vernacular of the people.
Once upon a time, in the early sixties, I was threatened with a coat of tar and feathers and had to be guarded by an armed guard, to the house of the friend where I was stopping, for making the statement here made; now he would indeed be a very rash or a very ignorant Christian who would deny it. Even the Preface to the Revised Version of the New Testament says:
“Of the many points of interest connected with the translation of 1611, two require special notice; first, the Greek Text which it appears to have represented; and, secondly, the character of the Translation itself.”
With regard to the Greek Text, it would appear that, if to some extent the translators exercised an independent judgment, it was mainly in choosing amongst the readings contained in the principal editions of the Greek text that had appeared in the sixteenth century. Wherever they seem to have followed a reading which is not found in any of those editions, their rendering may probably be traced to the Latin Vulgate. Their chief guides appear to have been the later editions of Stephanus and of Beza, and also, to a certain extent, the Complutension Polyglott. All these were founded, for the most part, on manuscripts of late date, few in number, and used with little critical skill. But in those days it could hardly have been otherwise. Nearly all the more ancient of the documentary authorities have become known only within the last two centuries. Their publication has called forth not only improved editions of the Greek Text, but a succession of instructive discussions on the variations which have been brought to light, and on the best modes of distinguishing original readings from changes introduced in the course of transcription. While, therefore, it has long been the opinion of all scholars that the commonly received text needed thorough revision, it is but recently that materials have been acquired for executing such a work with even approximate completeness.
The statements above made can be backed by any amount of testimony, but when the leaders of all Evangelical denominations unite in using such language as the above, it is enough.
5th. It would be interesting, if the reader had the time and the writer the space, to give the history of the different translations of the Bible, the division of the Bible into chapters and sentences, and of its punctuation. All these facts would show, if brought out, that the Bible, like all other books, is exceedingly human in its origin.
While the Bible is none of it infallible—none of it unerring,—when rightly interpreted it is all of it useful; all of it good. Even the parts which the people called Infidels have ridiculed the most, become beautiful when examined in the light of Modern Spiritualism.
The Bible naturally divides itself into four parts: 1st. The mythical and traditional. 2d. The historical. 3d. The ethical, or what is commonly called the moral; and, 4th. The inspirational and prophetic. A book is not necessarily true because its authors were inspired; inspiration quickens and brings out the ideas of the speaker, writer and inspiring genius. Imagination may be drawn on for the supposed facts in hundreds of inspired discourses, essays and poems to-day, as well as in the past.
The Spiritualists of to-day do not believe that the Bible is inspired; they do not believe that books can be inspired. Inspiration can only come to men, women and children. These inspired persons may write books and fill them with the results of their inspirations, but not with the inspiration itself.
Inspiration can come to men in any and every age of the world, and impart to them the best thought they are capable of receiving or imparting at that time. Inspiration in one age does not shut off the inspiration of other ages. While we may profit by the inspiration that came to Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jesus or Paul, we cannot live on their inspiration more than we could on the food they ate. The sun shining on the people of past ages does not warm us, nor does their inspiration afford us the -spiritual warmth we need. If we would grow spiritually we must step out into the clear and warm sunshine of the spirit of inspiration.
The Bible, when used as a key with which to unlock our thoughts and inspirations, is a grand book; but when used as our grandfathers used it, as a cell in which to confine our thinking, it is indeed a dark and gloomy prison.
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