Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/81

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Chapter III.


The work of the higher critics in the literary analysis of Scripture is mainly of a destructive character. There is, indeed, a constructive aspect of their activity. Their investigations cast a useful positive light upon the original synthesis and growth of the Christian sacred books. Still, from the point of view of the Rationalist historian, the most interesting result of their labours is the proof that those books contain no indication of a supernatural origin. This negative result is, however, irresistibly confirmed and supplemented by another new science, or rather two new sciences, which the Rationalistic spirit has evoked in the present century—the sciences of comparative religion and comparative mythology. In these sciences the elements themselves which enter into the composition of the Bible are subjected to positive methods of inquiry. The higher criticism was concerned only with the mode of their combination. If these elements, the myths, legends, or doctrines of the Bible, eluded all further scientific analysis, the claim for an extra-rational source would still have a certain status as an hypothesis. Before the scientific investigations which we are now going to summarize, such an hypothesis seems to be as hopelessly discredited as the hypothesis of the supernatural formation of the actual books of Scripture. Just as physical science has destroyed the theory of a unique and transcendent interest which antiquity had allotted to our planet among the heavenly bodies, and to the human race amid the many inhabitants of our planet, so also the moral sciences have ruthlessly discredited the old-time theory of a unique character of the Christian religion and literature among the religions and literatures