Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/301

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



JULY, 1895.




NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

XX.—FROM THE DIVINE ORACLES TO THE HIGHER CRITICISM.

By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D. (Yale), Ph. D. (Jena),

FORMERLY PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

II. BEGINNINGS OF SCIENTIFIC INTERPRETATION.

AT the base of the vast structure of the older scriptural interpretation were certain ideas regarding the first five books of the Old Testament. It was taken for granted that they had been dictated by the Almighty to Moses about fifteen hundred years before our era; that some parts of them, indeed, had been written by the corporeal finger of Jehovah; and that all parts gave not merely his thoughts but his exact phraseology. It was also held, virtually by the universal Church, that while every narrative or statement in these books is a precise statement of historical or scientific fact, yet that the entire text contains vast hidden meanings. Such was the rule: the exceptions made by a few interpreters here and there only confirmed it. Even the indifference of St. Jerome to the doctrine of Mosaic authorship did not prevent its ripening into a dogma.

The book of Genesis was universally held to be an account, not only divinely comprehensive but miraculously exact, of the creation and of the beginnings of life on the earth; an account to which all discoveries in every branch of science must, under pains and penalties, be made to conform. In English-speaking lands this has lasted until our own time. The most eminent living English biologist has recently told us how in every path of natural science he has, at some stage in his career, come across a barrier labeled "No thoroughfare. Moses."

A favorite subject of theological eloquence was the perfection