Page:Literature and Dogma (1883).djvu/229

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193
OUR 'MASSES' AND THE BIBLE

true and natural one. Again, the construction we put upon the doctrine and work of Jesus is collected in the same way. From the data we have, and from comparison of these data with what we have besides of the history of ideas and expressions, this construction seems to us the true and natural one. The Gospel-narratives are just that sort of account of such a work and teaching as the work and teaching of Jesus Christ, according to our construction of it, was, which would naturally have been given by devoted followers who did not fully understand it. And understand it fully they then could not, it was so very new, great, and profound; only time gradually brings its lines out more clear.

On the other hand, the theologians' notion of dogmas presupposed in the Bible, and of a constant latent reference to them, we reject, because experience is against it. The more we know of the history of ideas and expressions, the more we are convinced that this account is not and cannot be the true one; that the theologians have credited the Bible with this presupposition of dogmas and this constant latent reference to them, but that they are not really there. 'The Fathers recognised,' says Cardinal Newman, 'a certain truth lying hid under the tenor of the sacred text as a whole, and showing itself more or less in this verse or that, as it might be. The Fathers might have traditionary information of the general drift of the inspired text which we have not.' Born into the world twenty years later, and touched with the breath of the 'Zeit-Geist,' how would this exquisite and delicate genius have been himself the first to feel the unsoundness of all this! that we have heard the like about other books before, and that it always turns out to be not so, that the right interpretation of a document, such as the Bible, is not in this fashion. Homer's poetry was the Bible of the Greeks, however strange a one; and just in the same way there grew up the notion of a mystical and inner sense