Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/638

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good purpose that a very representative collection of Greek theology was readily accessible to any studious Western.

The next development that we look for is the rise of the critical instinct. The fifteenth century produced one critic who died before its close, Lorenzo Valla. He, though uninspired by any interest in the Christian religion, did a considerable service to the cause of truth by pointing out the falsity of certain documents which had long taken high rank among the archives of the Church.

One of these was the "Donation of Constantine," a forgery easy to detect when attention was once drawn to it, but yet a monument whose apparent importance was so great that the fate of Uzzah might have seemed likely to await the man who first laid hands upon it. The other was the group of works which passed under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite. We have seen something of the popularity of these books, as attested by the multiplicity of versions in which they were current; and indeed so important are they in themselves as a meeting-ground of Christian theology and Greek philosophy that they may be considered not unworthy of the pains lavished upon them by Erigena, Saracenus, Grosseteste, and Traversari. The last word has not yet been said as to their origin and history; but it is clear enough that the first word was spoken by Lorenzo Valla. No one before him had questioned the claim of these writings to be regarded as works of the Apostolic age. Hardly any one since his time has had a word to say in defence of that claim. The story of Grocyn's relation to them, of the high value he set upon them at first, and of his later conviction that Valla's estimate of them was the true one,—a conviction which, with characteristic honesty, he hastened to make public,—forms as good an illustration as any that could be found of the spirit that was abroad. New estimates of the old documents were being formed, as a direct result of the accession of new materials for study.

One question of the highest importance to our subject has been left out of consideration in the preceding remarks. What was the condition of things as regards the text of the Scriptures, the fountain-head of Christian science? Since 1455 the Church had had in its hands a printed Bible in Latin; and more than one vernacular version had seen the light. The Old Testament also had been printed in Hebrew by Italian Jews. But what was the quality of these texts? Had Roger Bacon's aspirations for a Latin Bible corrected according to the oldest copies, and for the multiplication and distribution among the clergy of the Scriptures in the original tongues, been satisfied? The question must be answered in the negative. Of the many printed Vulgates none offered a text constructed on critical principles; and it is probable that of the earliest Hebrew Bibles, such as that of Soncino, few copies made their way into Christian hands. The first important attempt to present the world with a complete Bible in the original was made in Spain:-a country which in after