Tuesday, August 2, 2016
The Trouble with Bible Commentaries By Col. Ethan Allen 1854
The Trouble with Bible Commentaries By Col. Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary War Hero 1854
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Every commentary and annotation on the Bible, implicitly declares its fallibility; for if the Scriptures remained genuine and entire, they would not stand in need of commentaries and expositions, but would shine in their infallible lustre and purity without them. What an idle phantom it is for mortals to assay to illustrate and explain to mankind, that which God may be supposed to have undertaken to do, by the immediate inspiration of his spirit? Do they understand how to define or explain it better than God may be supposed to have done? This is not supposable; upon what ground then do these multiplicity of comments arise, except it be pre-supposed that the present translations of the Bible have, by some means or other, become fallible and imperfect, and therefore need to be rectified and explained? and if so, it has lost the stamp of divine authority; provided in its original composition it may be supposed to have been possessed of it.
To construe or spiritualize the Bible is the same as to inspire it over again, by the judgment, fancy or enthusiasm of men; and thus the common people, by receiving God's supposed revelation at secondary hands (whether at the thousandth or ten thousandth remove from its first premised inspiration they know not) cannot in fact be taught by the revelation of God. Add to this the diverse and clashing expositions of the Bible, among which are so many flagrant proofs of the fallibility and uncertainty of such teachings, as must convince even bigots, that every one of these expositions are erroneous, except their own!
It has been owing to different comments on the Scriptures, that Christians have been divided into sectaries. Every commentator, who could influence a party to embrace his comment, put himself, at the head of a division of Christians; as Luther, Calvin, and Arminius, laid the foundation of the sectaries who bear their names; and the Socinians were called after the Scismatical Socinius; the same may be said of each of the sectaries. Thus it is that different commentaries or acceptations of the original meaning of the Scriptures, have divided the Christian world into divisions and subdivisions of which it consists at present. Nor was there ever a division or subdivision among Jews, Christians or Muslims, respecting their notions or opinions of religion, but what was occasioned by commentating on the Scriptures, or else by latter pretended inspired revelations from God in addition thereto. The law of Moses was the first pretended immediate revelation from God, which respects the Bible, and after that in succession the several revelations of the prophets, and last of all (in the Christian system) the revelations of Jesus Christ and apostles, who challenged a right of abolishing the priesthood of Moses; Christ claiming to be the antitype of which the institution of sacrifices and ceremonial part of the law of Moses was emblematical; but this infringement of the prerogative of the Levitical priests gave such offence, not only to them, but to the Jews as a nation, that they rejected Christianity, and have not subscribed to the divine authority of it to this day, holding to the law of Moses and the prophets. However Christianity made a great progress in the world, and has been very much divided into sectaries, by the causes previously assigned.
"Muhammed taking notice of the numerous sects and divisions among Christians, in his journies to Palestine, &c, thought it would not be difficult to introduce a new religion, and make himself high priest and sovereign of the people." This he finally effected, prosecuting his scheme so far, that he new modelled the Scriptures, presenting them, (as he said,) in their original purity, and called his disciples after his own name. He gained great numbers of proselytes and became their sovereign in civil, military and spiritual matters, instituted the order of mystical priesthood, and gave the world a new Bible by the name of the Alcoran (Koran); which he gives us to understand was communicated to him from God, by the intermediate agency of the angel Gabriel, chapter by chapter. "His disciples at this day inhabit a great part of the richest countries in the world, and are supposed to be more numerous than the Christians," and are as much, if not more, divided into sectaries, from causes similar to those which produced the division of Christians, viz.: the different commentators on, and expositions of the Koran. The Mufti, or priests, represented the doctrines and precepts of the Koran in a variety of lights different from each other, each of them claiming the purity of the original and infallible truths prescribed to the world by Muhammed, their great reformer of Christianity. For though the several sectaries of Muslims differ, respecting the meaning of their Koran, yet they all hold to the truth and divine authority thereof, the same as the Christian sectaries do concerning their Bible: so that all the different opinions which ever did, or at present do subsist, between Jews, Christians and Muslims, may be resolved into one consideration, viz.: the want of a right understanding of the original of the Scriptures. All sat out at first, as they imagined, from the truth of God's word, (except the impostors,) concluded that they had an infallible guide, and have, by one means or other, been guided into as many opposite faiths as human Invention has been capable of fabricating; each sect among the whole, exulting in their happy ignorance, believing that they are favored with an infallible revelation for their direction.
It alters not the present argument, whether the Scriptures were originally true or not; for though they be supposed to have been either true or false, or a mixture of both, yet they could never have been handed down entire and uncorrupted to the present time, through the various changes and perpetual refinements of learning and language; this is not merely a matter of speculative and argumentative demonstration, the palpable certainty of it stands confessed in every Jewish, Christian and Mahometan sectary.