Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/422

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

THE SCIENCE OF BIBLICAL CRITICISM.

A CHANGE is gradually coming over the meaning of the word science or, rather, there is a growing appreciation of its true meaning, which is of great significance. In the newspaper column of "Science" we have a list of results of late experiments of all kinds. In looking over many scientific periodicals it would be inferred that the term is restricted to physical science. From the text-books we should conclude that science consists of the facts and principles that have been established and collected in different groups under this name. But it now begins to be understood that science properly means a method by which all these results are produced. It is a method of thought, a method of investigation, having for its simple object the establishment of the truths of nature. This method has grown up gradually in modern times to greater and greater perfection, and has widened in scope, until now it includes many subjects with which it was at first supposed to have no relation.

There has of course been great resistance to this tendency. For, while people admit that truth is valuable and precious, they generally think that they are also in full possession of it, and are, therefore, in little need of methods to arrive at it. Their beliefs are truth, and therefore not to be disturbed. Science doubts, with a view to reinvestigation, and is hence unwelcome. Especially where men band together in parties and sects and declare their opinions, there arises at once a spirit of hostility to any thorough inquiry which might unsettle the views to which they are committed. Meantime, in spite of this resistance, the spirit of investigation has gained strength and spread rapidly in all directions of research.

The latest and most impressive proof of the progress of the scientific spirit is seen in the recent treatment of the Christian Scriptures. Biblical criticism has long been affected by the scientific method, and is now to be controlled by it. How far the critical spirit is already advanced and diffused, so that the Bible is regarded as a book with a human and an imperfect side, and containing errors that can be removed with better knowledge, is shown by the fact that the English translation of two hundred and fifty years' standing has been lately attacked by a body of able and learned revisers, who, after eleven years of labor, have just given us a corrected edition of the New Testament. This is a great step in the direction of rationalism. It concedes that the Scriptures must be subjected to the tests of reason, and this concession is due entirely to the modern scientific movement, which demands higher standards of proof, and more inexorable questioning as to what is true.

The revisers of the New Testament have fairly and formally entered the critical wedge, but the driving it home is to be no holiday affair. Professor Robertson Smith, one of the most learned, able, and candid of Biblical critics, having undertaken to treat the history of some parts of the Old Testament in a great encyclopædia, was met by his church and silenced in his professorship in the Aberdeen University. But the world gains by this act of intolerance. Professor Smith left the college halls and went out to give a course of popular lectures upon the