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ART. IX.-The Epistles of St Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans: with Critical Notes and Dissertations. By BENJAMIN JOWETT, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford. Two vols., 8vo. London: John Murray. 1855. Pp. 417, 505.
THIS work both deserves and demands a thorough review. The penetration which it displays in the treatment of some of the most important questions of historical criticism, and the tide of fresh and powerful thinking which it pours over nearly the entire field of theological speculation, constitute strong claims on the attention of all critical students of the New Testament. And yet great as its merit is, considered simply as a product of thought, we know of no modern work of equal pretension so bitterly disappointing in its results. We speak not at present of the soundness, but simply of the definiteness of its conclusions. In this respect it resembles the wide waste of waters after the flood had done its work of destruction, and not a trace of dry land was to be seen. Mr Jowett, while he destroys nearly all that has hitherto been most surely believed in catholic Christendom, builds up positively nothing in its stead. His theological criticism is frightfully negative. His Christianity seems to have hardly any positive elements. What he builds up with the one hand he goes far, by qualifications and insinuations, to pull down with the other. Even what seems to remain is, by his treatment of it, made to appear a variable and evanescent quantity. When he has eliminated all the conventionalisms which he holds to have gathered around Christianity for ages when he has disencumbered it of the crudities which attach, it seems, even to the apostolic teaching in its earliest stage; and of the Alexandrian rhetoric, of which, at a later stage, the argumentative Epistles of the New Testament are chiefly made up: and finally, when he has sat in judgment even upon the small residuum, and found that it represents Christianity in a form, the narrowness and exclusiveness of which he thinks it quite impossible to regard as essential and unchangeable; a form which time and events have shown, he considers, to be accidental; a form in which Christianity is, in point of fact, not held by the majority of Christendom, whom we are not surely to believe on the road to perdition on that account, not to speak of the heathen outside: when we find Christianity thus tapering away in the hands of our author, one is at a loss to know on what terra firma his own feet repose, or what he proposes to offer to Christendom as a substitute for its present baseless faith. That he believes in the historical truth of the facts of Christianity, is manifest enough. He speaks of it
throughout, too, as a vital, and, in its infancy, victorious principle in the human soul. But in what respect it is so, and where its great strength lies, or rather did lie-for much of its original force is now spent, if we read him aright-you will in vain inquire. But what is not in it you are told with a boldness which will startle most people who know that the author, now Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, is a minister of the Church of England.
The following examples will illustrate this remark. The sin of Adam and the death of his race have no sort of causal connection; nor was Adam ever in a pure and perfect state; nor is death the consequence of sin at all, either original or actual. Atonement for sin by the death of Christ is simply a Jewish figure. As to the Person of Christ, and the Personality of the Holy Ghost, we can only gather the author's opinions; but unless we have quite misread his volumes, we suppose we do him no wrong in presuming that he would sympathise with Sabellius, in maintaining that all such distinctions in the Godhead are merely modal, not essential. The Old Testament is almost always quoted in the New without reference to the connection in which the passages originally occur, and in a different sense from that in which the prophet or psalmist intended them. This new sense of the Old Testament imparts to it its only vitality. As it stands, and without the service thus rendered to it by the New Testament writers, it would be a petrifaction. Some apology is to be made for these New Testament writers, in making such constant use of sacrificial language to express and illustrate the death of Christ, notwithstanding that there is no real relation between them. We must remember that the apostles were Jews, and could not be expected all at once to shake off their Judaism; their own sacrifices they could not understand, but they could understand much about Christ's death; and when once the thought occurred to them to connect the one with the other, it would admit of indefinite application. And there is less of this in Paul's writings than in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is steeped in Alexandrian modes of thinking and phraseology. Indeed, the leading thought of Paul's mind is not the identification, but the opposition of the Law and the Gospel. But even this is handled in the loose and rhetorical manner of his day. His argumentation is not at all logical, in our modern sense it is even doubtful whether he was capable of weighing evidence," as we understand it. Nor, if you would do Paul and his writings justice, must you overlook the date of his compositions. Not only were his ideas of Christianity very rudimental at first, but as time showed him that these were crude and erroneous, he abandoned them. Thus, he at first expected to witness the second coming
of Christ; but in process of time he substituted for this the expectation of his own departure to be with Christ. And whereas he predicts the national conversion of the Jews, he would have "changed his manner of speech" if he could have foreseen that after eighteen centuries all things would continue as they were from the beginning. After this, of course, it would be superfluous to ask what our author's views of Inspiration are-on which, by the way, as on the Person of Christ, there is not, amongst some five-and-twenty or thirty Dissertations, sweeping over nearly all theology, any separate essay, nor even one direct and unequivocal statement.
More painful, however, to us than all these negations is the spirit of its criticism. We do not mean the temper of it, for that is perfect. We refer to the energy of the destructive element, which presides over the whole field of the author's investigations, and is too uncomfortably near us even where the argument is defensive, and where the result of it is a vindication of portions of the New Testament against the subtle attacks which have been made upon them. Hence the lack of warm exuberance under the beams of positive Christian truth, even such as our author conceives of it. It is over-mastered by the dominance of another and a colder element. We are treated to a criticism of the Christian religion, as exhibited in certain of its apostolic records, and in its logical character and historical bearings, rather than presented with a contribution towards a truer apprehension of its supernatural character and healing virtue as the life of the world. Indeed, how could it be otherwise, when his chief points of view are those of the semi-naturalistic school of Germany, the virus of which kills what life his religious earnestness might otherwise impart to his work? This earnestness, coupled with his rare ability and scholarly accomplishments, makes us feel inexpressible regret at the character and tendency of his theological speculations. One thing which we think we have observed in his work, while it increases our apprehension of the injury it will do, only adds to our interest in the state of his own mind. If we misinterpret not greatly, Mr Jowett is one who, after being shaken as to all Christianity, has recovered his footing so far as to be firmly persuaded of its historical truth and supernatural character; and we would venture a step farther, and say, that there are indications not to be mistaken of his having been nurtured under strong Evangelical influences, whose effects even upon his present conceptions of Christian truth constitute their only vital and truly conservative elements. And one principal and most laudable object of his work seems to be, to show the thoroughness of the critical ground on which certain powerfully-assailed books of the New Testament can be vindi
cated against the recent Tübingen school. But since side by side with this has grown up in his mind a deep dissatisfaction with the Christianity of the Orthodox Church from the beginning, his dialectic subtilty has, unfortunately, exercised itself with at least as much energy in taking down the latter as in building up the former. So that even what is almost wholly unexceptionable, and truly admirable, has not that weight upon the whole and in the end which by itself it is fitted to have, by reason of the commanding effect of other things of a very different and deadly character which pervade the work. Here, perhaps, lies the main difference between Mr Stanley's recent work on the Epistles to the Corinthians and that of our author. The two books have so many things in common, both in matter and form, that there can be no doubt of some understanding existing between these authors. But besides that Mr Stanley is very far from going the length of some of Mr Jowett's negations, you are constrained under his pages to feel that Christianity is the one religion of heaven, the one interpreter of human life, the one medicine for all its ills, the one vital link between time and eternity. Mr Jowett is Mr Stanley's superior in mental grasp, in dialectic subtilty; but for photographic reproduction of the apostolic age,—for living, breathing representation of the apostolic princes, of the scenes in which they moved, the parties they had to control, and the state of things which they left behind them, the author of "Sermons and Essays on the Apostolical Age" has no equal in the present day. And with all the faults of his volumes on the Corinthians, they have at least this excellence, that they do not leave you, as Mr Jowett does, with the blank and desolate feeling that the chief use of studying the New Testament now-a-days is to get rid of the ideas which you have hitherto attached to it; but make you feel that you have in them mighty principles of present action, unchanging laws of the divine kingdom-"the word of the Lord, which endureth for ever."
But it is time to come to particulars.
The work before us embraces the four following features:First, the Greek text of the Epistles to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans-that of Lachmann being selected in preference to the Textus Receptus; next, the English of the authorised version on the opposite, page, altered only where the sense appeared to have been misapprehended by our translators, or where a different reading required a corre sponding change in the version-both cases being carefully marked; thirdly, critical notes, in a somewhat smaller type,
below the text, and in double columns; and lastly, Dissertations-amounting to more than half the matter of the whole work-not printed at the end of the book, or even of the Epistles to which they more especially belong, but interspersed through the body of the work.
In giving a critical edition of the Epistles he was to illustrate, Mr Jowett has acted wisely in selecting a text made ready to his hand, instead of attempting to construct one for himself. Mr Alford's success in the herculean undertaking of framing at once a critical text and a critical commentary on the New Testament, is certainly not encouraging. Of both the text and the commentary we may take occasion, possibly, to speak more in detail in some future number. Meantime, as both have been mercilessly attacked in certain quarters, and not without indications of an animus, we deem it due to a man of sound scholarship, manly faith, and remarkable industry, to state here, that, with some grave faults, it is, in our humble judgment, decidedly in advance of any thing of the kind that has yet appeared in our language; and that if his text, as a whole, cannot be regarded as any real improvement upon the labours of those who have spent their strength almost exclusively upon this very difficult species of work, he has only failed where decided success was next to hopeless.
Mr Jowett, in his Introduction, has stated very lucidly the principles on which Lachmann constructed his text; which will be found detailed by that accomplished editor in the preface to the first volume of his larger edition, published in 1842; and illustrated and defended, chiefly against his friend, De Wette, in the preface to the second volume, which appeared in 1850, shortly before his lamented death. This text, opposed as it was on its first appearance with great keenness, and by some of the most eminent scholars, is gradually rising in public estimation, as a highly successful attempt to reproduce the Greek Testament as nearly as possible as it was read by the Christian Church about the fourth century. In making use of Lachmann's text, however, the following things should be carefully borne in mind:-That he does not profess to weigh, but only to report the diplomatic evidence, his object being to give the text with no reference to what it originally was, or may be concluded from all the data in our possession to have been, but only as it stood in point of fact at the date of the oldest existing manuscripts; that he has not in every instance adhered to his own principles, and that great as his success has been, it would admit of improvement even on his own plan; that the plan itself is open to grave objections, inasmuch as the authorities to which it limited the editor are so very few-in some cases he is reduced to two and even to one manuscript,