Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/617

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THE DECLINE OF BIBLIOLATRY.

a right to reject the Apocalypse and accept the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Western an equal right to accept the Apocalypse and reject the Epistle, down to the fourth century, any other branch would have an equal right, on cause shown, to reject both, or, as the Catholic Church afterward actually did, to accept both.

Thus I can not but think that the thirty-eight are hoist with their own petard. Their "appeal to antiquity" turns out to be nothing but a roundabout way of appealing to the tribunal the jurisdiction of which they affect to deny. Having rested the world of Christian supernaturalism on the elephant of biblical infallibility, and furnished the elephant with standing ground on the tortoise of "antiquity," they, like their famous Hindoo analogue, have been content to look no further; and have thereby been spared the horror of discovering that the tortoise rests on a grievously fragile construction, to a great extent the work of that very intellectual operation which they anathematize and repudiate.

Moreover, there is another point to be considered. It is of course true that a Christian Church (whether the Christian Church, or not, depends on the connotation of the definite article) existed before the Christian Scriptures; and that the infallibility of these depends upon the infallibility of the judgment of the persons who selected the books, of which they are composed, out of the mass of literature current among the early Christians. The logical acumen of Augustine showed him that the authority of the gospel he preached must rest on that of the Church to which he belonged.[1] But it is no less true that the Hebrew and the Septuagint versions of most, if not all, of the Old Testament books existed before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth; and that their divine authority is presupposed by, and therefore can hardly depend upon, the religious body constituted by his disciples. As everybody knows, the very conception of a "Christ" is purely Jewish. The validity of the argument from the Messianic prophecies vanishes unless their infallible authority is granted; and, as a matter of fact, whether we turn to the Gospels, the Epistles, or the writings of the early Apologists, the Jewish Scriptures are recognized as the highest court of appeal of the Christian.

The proposal to cite Christian "antiquity" as a witness to the infallibility of the Old Testament, when its own claims to authority vanish, if certain propositions contained in the Old Testament are erroneous, hardly satisfies the requirements of lay logic. It is as if a claimant to be sole legatee, under another kind of tes-


  1. Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi ecclesiæ Catholicæ me commoveret auctoritas.—Contra Epistolam Manichæi, cap. v. [I would not, indeed, believe the gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church directed me. Editor.]