Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/500

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considering that Jahveh set the example; as when, to ruin Ahab, he commissioned "a lying spirit" (1 Kings, xxii, 22) to deceive his prophets; or as when, according to Ezekiel, xiv, 9, he threatened to use deception as a means of vengeance.

"If the prophet he deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel."

Evidently from a race-character which evolved such a conception of a deity's principles, there naturally came no great regard for veracity. This we see in sundry cases; as when Isaac said Rebecca was not his wife but his sister, and nevertheless received the same year a bountiful harvest: "the Lord blessed him" (Genesis, xxvi, 12); or as when Rebecca induced Jacob to tell a lie to his father and defraud Esau—a lie not condemned but shortly followed by a divine promise of prosperity; or as when Jeremiah tells a falsehood at the king's suggestion. Nor do we find the standard much changed in the days of Christ and after: instance the case of Paul, who, apparently rather piquing himself on his "craft and guile," elsewhere defends his acts by contending that "the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory." (Romans, iii, 7.)

Much regard for veracity was hardly to be expected among the Greeks. In the Iliad the gods are represented not only as deceiving men but as deceiving one another. The chiefs "do not hesitate at all manner of lying." Pallas Athene is described as loving Ulysses because he is so deceitful; and, in the words of Mahaffy, the Homeric society is full of guile and falsehood."[1] Nor was it widely otherwise in later days. The trait alleged of the Cretans—"always liars"—though it may have been more marked in them than in Greeks at large, did not constitute an essential difference. Mahaffy describes Greek conduct in the Attic age as characterized by "treachery" and "selfish knavery,"

  1. Marvelous are the effects of educational bias. Familiarity with the doings of these people, guilty of so many "atrocities," characterized by such "revolting cruelty of manners," as Grote says, who were liars through all grades from their gods down to their slaves, and whose religion was made up of gross and brutal superstitions, distinguishes one of our leading statesmen; and, joined to familiarity with the doings of other Greeks, is thought by him to furnish the best possible preparation for life of the highest kind. In a speech at Eton, reported in The Times, of 16 March, 1891, Mr. Gladstone said—"If the purpose of education is to fit the human mind for the efficient performance of the greatest functions, the ancient culture, and, above all, Greek culture, is by far the best, the most lasting, and the most elastic instrument that can possibly be applied to it." Other questions aside, one might ask with puzzled curiosity which of Mr. Gladstone's creeds, as a statesman, it is which we must ascribe to the influence of Greek culture—whether the creed with which he set out as a Tory when fresh from Oxford, or the extreme radical creed which he has adopted of late years?