Faith versus 'Scientific' 19th cent. Criticism

Jesus vs. OT Criticism (1887)

Excerpt from: H. Osgood, Jesus Christ the Final Test of Biblical Criticism, Baptist Quarterly Review, Vol. IX, (1887)

Page Index

Jesus versus 'scientific' Biblical Criticism: - Howard Osgood:
    "Scientific Criticism" - no effect on faith?
    Counting Critics - a worthless endeavour
    Is "Scientific Criticism" Harmful? - who should decide question
    Two Schools of Criticism - materialism versus science informed by faith
    Materialist View of the OT & NT - and the resulting options
    Proper Interpretation of Matt. 24:36 - Jesus Omniscience Affirmed
    Jesus' View of the OT - inseparable from His Teachings
    I. Desert Temptation - Jesus' Defence: built on sand?
    II. Jesus on Genesis - Stand on Marriage unfounded?
    III. Jesus on the Law of God - False Foundation for Morality?
    IV. Jesus on the Resurrection - He depends on historicity of the patriarchs
    V. Jesus on John & Himself - the integrity of David's Psalms
    Final Court of Appeal - the integrity and knowledge of the witnesses
    Conclusion - mechanistic materialism incompatible with Christ

Return to Index

Jesus versus
Biblical Criticism


Taken from:
Baptist Quarterly Review, Vol IX, 1887

Headings have been added for clarity and navigation purposes.


By H. Osgood (1887)

"Scientific Criticism": No Effect on our Faith?

We are told by the Presbyterian Review that

"the analysis of the Hexateuch [the 1st six books of the Bible] into several distinct original documents is a purely literary question in which no article of faith is involved."

That this is a wild statement is shown by the fact that all the leaders and strong thinkers and workers in this analysis deny the supernatural, the deity of Christ, etc., on the very ground of this analysis.

Wellhausen says his theological belief is "polytheism and monotheism together," and that he left the theological faculty of Greifswald in 1882 of his own accord, because he was

"...conscious that I in no respect stood any longer on the same ground with the evangelical church, or with Protestantism."

We like his honesty in this respect. He has the courage of his convictions. We are also warned by the Review that all the best scholars agree in the "analysis of the Hexateuch into the four great documents."

But this hardly agrees with the fact that Wellhausen points out twenty-two distinct writers and editors, and Kuenen makes out eighteen at least, with the suggestion of unnumbered more.

We are very willing to grant that every prominent Hebrew professor in Germany agrees to the literary analysis of the Hexateuch into " several distinct original documents," and if every Hebrew professor in the world was added to the German professors on this point, it would not at all alter the main question between Jesus Christ and this analysis.

Playing with Numbers is Fruitless and Worthless.

Numbers do not count in the soul's settlement of that point. If numbers should count and men should follow them, then we may expect to see all the Presbyterians, represented by one side of their Review, go over to the United Church of Germany ; for all the theological professors in Germany are united in that elastic fold.

The other Presbyterians we shall be glad to receive, on proper application, into the Baptist fold, for while all Presbyterians in our land number only 1,082,436, the Baptists number 3,727,000.

If opposing numbers frighten any one he ought not to follow Jesus, who was alone against the world, or Paul, whom " all forsook " in his supreme trial, or Athanasius, or even any form of Christianity, for at this late day, eighteen hundred years after the death of Jesus, there are twice as many heathens in the world as there are Christians.

Morality and faith are not decided by numbers or famous names, and the appeal to numbers is an appeal to fear or ignorance.

Whether any article of evangelical faith, common to all Protestant confessions, is involved in the current analysis of the Hexateuch, we would rather ask of men who have done large original work in that specialty ; men of cool heads, logical, clear, who lead, who do not follow, who are known as leaders, and, whatever we may think of their opinions, are always to be found on the side they have chosen, and who, as far as it is possible to human nature, are fair and honest to opponents.

Is the new "scientific exegesis" Harmful?

There are two "diametrically opposite" lines of criticism of the Bible; those who follow what they term their " scientific exegesis," and make that the final arbiter of the whole Bible and its contents;

- and those who, with a better scientific exegesis, as they believe, know and follow Jesus Christ as Saviour, Master, God ; whose decision plainly given on any point is final to them.

Jesus Christ is the dividing point. Between these lines there can never be compromise ; there is, in fact, no real argument; the only result can be, for one or the other, victory or death. But there are hosts of superficial compromisers between these lines.

Kuenen versus Toy

We take, and are responsible for verifying, all our proofs of the principles and results of our opponents' scientific exegesis from the latest works of Professor Kuenen, of Leyden, Holland, whom Professor Cheyne, of Oxford, calls "second to none, or rather, the most distinguished of all" Biblical critics.

The one on our side of the water who most learnedly and honestly gives the principles and results of the school of criticism led by Kuenen is Professor Toy, of Harvard. 1 These scholars, in addition to greater learning than most of their school, are always manly, honest, unfailingly courteous, and never guilty of theologic or scholastic pettinees. In these virtues they may well be imitated by those of all schools who use vicious personal suggestions in place of better argument.

What is "scientific exegesis" ?
Two Schools

The 'Natural' (Materialism) School

Professor Kuenen uses this term to express the method of criticism, its principles, means, results, pursued by him and by his school. But all scholars of both these opposing lines of criticism use the same text of the Bible, the same grammars and lexicons; and all the external and internal means of every description for the interpretation of the text are open to both.

Where, then, do these opposing "scientific exegesis" differ? Solely in their fundamental principles and in the necessary logical inferences or results of these principles; for what is necessarily involved in the principle will be evolved in its working.

As to principle and necessary inference, Professor Kuenen tells us that,

" it is the supposition of a natural development alone which accounts for all the phenomena" of the Bible.2

This is the essential principle of the " scientific exegesis," and without it science would be the baseless fabric of a vision, for science is only built on the assumption of the infallible sequence of natural cause and effect; but this assumption is worthless if we can suppose a supernatural intervention in any degree at any point. 3

This "scientific exegesis" also claims to prove absolutely that in the Old and New Testament there is no supernatural revelation of any sort, no direct intervention of God, no miracle, no supernatural inspiration, no supernatural foretelling in the Old Testament, no supernatural fulfilment in the New Testament of that Old Testament foretelling; no veracious history, but myth, saga, legend, fiction, in the Pentateuch and in most of the Old Testament.

The present result of this " scientific exegesis," which "has been perfected and developed in the course of ages, and now stands firm as a rock," is "to form a conception of Israel's religious development totally different from that which, as any one may see, is set forth in the Old Testament, and to sketch the primitive Christianity in lines which even the acutest reader cannot recognize in the New." 4

There is one further step which "scientific exegesis" takes, Jesus is not God. 5

The Other School: Christian Scientific Exegesis

On the line confronting Professor Kuenen and his school are those who, by indubitable experience in their own consciousness and by study of the Bible, with all the external helps which the other " scientific exegesis " employs, know for a certainty that Jesus Christ is God, that He has revealed to them the Father, and that Christ's word is truth; that the Old and New Testaments are the supernaturally inspired history of the supernatural revelation of God.

The fundamental principle of the scientific criticism of this school of believers in the deity of Jesus Christ is, that it is the certainty of a supernatural development alone which accounts for all the phenomena of the Bible.

It is on these diametrically opposite controlling principles and their necessary inferences that the opposition for life or death is founded.

Our opponents could not accept Christ as God, and His authority as final in interpretation of the Bible, without the immediate and total abandonment of their whole system.

The believers in the deity of Jesus could not accept their opponents' first principle, the denial of the supernatural, without "denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ," without crucifying "to themselves the Son of God afresh and putting Him to an open shame," and without denying their own consciousness.

Hence there is really no argument between us. In the cutting up of the Pentateuch into minute fragments of sagas, legends, etc., our opponents refuse to listen to a single statement of Jesus as justly entitled to any weight.

We regard the plain teaching of Jesus as final.

The following clear statement by Professor Kuenen gives the New Testament view (and our view), and records his diametrical opposition to it:

" It is the common conviction of all the writers of the New Testament that the Old Testament is inspired of God, and is thus invested with divine authority.

The remark made, as it were in passing, in a passage of the fourth Gospel, that ' the Scripture cannot be broken' [this is Christ's word], is assented to by all the writers without distinction. In accordance with this they ascribe divine foreknowledge to the Israelitish prophets.

And far, indeed, from limiting this foreknowledge to generalities, and thus depriving it of all its importance, they refer us repeatedly to the agreement between specific prophetical utterances and single historical facts, and have no hesitation in declaring their conviction both that the prophet spoke of these specific facts, and that they, under God's direction, occurred ' in order that the word of the prophet might be fulfilled.'

It is unnecessary to support these statements by quoting passages; such passages are, as every one knows, very numerous. Here, then, is, at the very beginning, a first objection which the New Testament places in our way. Its judgment concerning the origin and nature of the prophetical expectations, and concerning their relation to the historical reality, may be regarded as diametrically opposed to ours."

" So long as we regard and judge the authors of the New Testament solely and only as expositors of the writings of the Old Testament, we stand, in fact, in the presence of this dilemma: we must either cast aside as worthless our dearly bought scientific method, or must forever cease to acknowledge the authority of the New Testament in the domain of the exegesis of the Old. Without hesitation we choose the latter alternative." 6

The italics are Professor Kuenen's. He is logical, honest, and with the courage of his convictions. But those who profess to regard Jesus as God, and yet also profess to follow that sort of " scientific exegesis," must, according to Professor Kuenen's views, and as we believe,—

" Palter with us in a double sense; They keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it to our hope."

And this, too, on the very point of supremest importance to man. A striking instance of this, though only one of many similar, is found in a late publication, by an American professor in a Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where we are told that Gen. 2:24,

'Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife ; and they shall be one flesh,'

- is nothing more than an editorial note, and does not belong to, and should be cast out of the Bible.

But against this assertion we have the positive assertion of Jesus Christ that that verse contains the words spoken by God, (Matt. 19:4, 5, Mark 10:6-9), as the primal and universal law of marriage. Paul also asserts the same in I. Cor. 6: 16, Eph. 5:31.

We are glad to turn from such incongruous, illogical and superficial playing fast and loose with the deity of Christ, and respect due to His word, as well as playing fast and loose with the "higher criticism," to the far more virile and logical course of Professor Kuenen and his school, who do not play fast and loose with the Bible.

They always reject the authority of Jesus as to Scripture interpretation, except as to the "practical religious," "spiritual" use of the Bible ; that is, they say we must separate His false view of Old Testament history and His erroneous interpretation from the 41 practical religious, "spiritual" lessons He thereby teaches.

Jesus' View of the Old Testament

But that is a simple impossibility, as we shall show by some examples of His interpretations, and by the Saviour's view of the truthfulness and validity of His own interpretations of the Old Testament, which is brought out into full light by considering His varied and repeated testimony to His own consciousness of His previous eternal exaltation at the right hand of God, of His powers while in "the form of a servant," and of His coming manifestation as Jehovah (Dan. 7:13, Mark 14: 62) on the throne of divine glory.

The following texts, among many others, give some of the words of Jesus testifying to His nature, His work, and His future ; they concern the deep things of His self-knowledge, and so throw a flood of light upon His fitness to use and interpret the Old Testament. (Here - M.=Matt. Mk.=Mark. L.=Luke. J.=John.)

He says He was before all time, J. 17:5,8:58; omnipresent, M. 18: 20, 28 : 20, J. 3 : 13 ; omnipotent, M. xi: 27, L. 10: 22, M. 28 : 18, J. 5 : 20, 13 : 3, 17 : 2 ; that He " came down from heaven," J. 3 : 13, 6: 33, 35, 38, 51, 62 ; that He knew that He " came forth from God " and should return to God, J. 7:28, 29, 8:14, 42, 13:3, 16:27, 28, 17:8, n; that He was the only one who knew and could reveal the Father, M. xi: 27, L. 10: 22, J. 14: 6; the universal final Judge, M. 7: 21-23, 16 : 27, L. 10 : 22, M. 24 : 30, 25 : 31 ; the ground of His final judgment of men is their treatment of Him and His word, M. 7 : 21-23, 25 : 31-46, J. 12:48; King not only of Israel, M. 27:ii,Mk. 15:2, L. 23:3, but of all mankind, M. 25 : 32, 34, 40; Lord of the holy angels, M. 16:27, L- 10: 22, M. 24 : 31, Mk. 8 : 38, 25 : 31 ; to come again in the glory of God, M. 16:27, Mk. 8:38, L. 9:26, M. 24:30, Mk. 13: 26, L. 21: 27, M. 25 : 31 ; to take again the glory He had with the Father before the world was, J. 17: 5 ; to sit on the throne of God, M. 19 : 28, 25 : 31, at the right hand of God, M. 26 : 64, Mk. 14 : 62, L. 22:69. With respect to His teaching; He taught nothing but what His Father had commanded Him to say, J. 7 : 16, 12 : 48-50, 14 : 24, 17 : 8, 14; what He "had heard from His Father," J. 5:30, 8:26, 28,40, 15: 15; what he had "seen with His Father," J. 3:11, 5 : 19, 20, 6:46, 8: 38 ; that He came to do and did do perfectly His Father's will. J- 4 : 34, 5 : 30, 6 : 38, S: 29.

These statements must be the zenith of truth, or the nadir of falsehood. And when we remember that other parts of the New Testament declare Him to be the immediate Creator of all things (John 1:3, 10, Rom. xi: 36, I Cor. 8: 6, Col. I : 16, Heb. 1:2, 10, 2 : 10), and the only one who has ever revealed the Father (J. i : 18, 5 : 37, 6: 46, M. xi: 27, L. 10 : 22, J. 12 : 41, 45, 14: 7, 9), then, in accordance with these statements, He, in the New Testament, explains His own revelation in the Old Testament.

Our opponents tell us that:

Jesus, "as an individual man, had of necessity a definite, restricted intellectual outfit and outlook ; and these could be only those of His day and generation. * * * If he did not know the day of consummation (M. 24 : 36), why should He be supposed to know the science of the criticism of the Old Testament, which began to exist centuries after his death ?" 7

But we ask, Does God now know and understand "the science of the criticism of the Old Testament?" If He does, then He has always known it. And the real, fundamental question here is, Was and is Jesus Christ God? Was He by His own testimony conscious while here on earth that He was God?

The Proper Interpretation
of Matt. 24:36

We believe, and would take nothing from, those words of Jesus in Matt. 24: 36, but that passage must be interpreted, as every other passage is to be interpreted, by comparison with all similar or opposing statements of Jesus. As Matt. 24:36 is unique in the testimony of Jesus concerning Himself, there are no similar statements to be compared with it. Acts 1:7 does not affirm " not knowing," which is the point referred to.

In Matt. 24, Jesus is answering the disciples' questions,

"Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?"

He, in verse 36, refuses to tell the " when," but He prophesies unto the disciples what shall be the signs of the approach of the great day ; what men are to do and to avoid as that day draws near ; that He, the Son of Man, is to come

" on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
" When ye see all these things, know ye that He (or it) is nigh, even at the doors."
" Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."

That day shall come, as the Flood came on the world, suddenly. That day is the day when "The Son of Man cometh," and pronounces the final irrevocable judgment on men.

Jesus, then, knew that He was to be the central personage on that day, and knew what He was to do and say on that day; He knew what signs announced its distant coming, and what signs foretold it was "nigh even at the doors" ; He knew that day would rend the veil from the eyes of all men, and He should be seen and acknowledged as Jehovah, the Universal Judge. What ignorance is it that can be predicated of Him who knows Himself to be Jehovah, about to be revealed to all men ? By His own words, Jesus did know "the day of consummation," in all its surroundings, in all its contents, in all its results; its surroundings and contents and results were all ruled by HIMSELF, the Omnipotent, all glorious, final judge.

But He (also) tells us,

"Of (περι, concerning, as respects) that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only."

(Matt. 24 : 36 ; Mark, 13 : 32.)

We do not pretend to solve this mystery. We only say that this not knowing must be consistent with the intimate knowledge of that day, and with the self-consciousness, as the central personage of that day, concurrently asserted by Jesus.

Editor's Note *

In fact, in modern times we can solve this 'mystery' quite simply, by insisting on a literal translation, and appealing to the grammar. Mark gives the original saying:

Περι δε της ημερας εκεινης η ωρας ουδεις οιδεν,
ουδε οι αγγελοι οι εν ουρανω, ουδε ο Υιος,
ΕΙ ΜΗ ο Πατηρ.

'But about that day or hour no one knows,
not even the angels, those in heaven, not even the Son,
IF NOT the Father."

(Mark 13:32)

This is actually a Conditional Sentence, not a flat statement. the phrase "the Father" stands in for a complete clause (by a grammatical short-form called 'Elipsis'). In full, the sentence (two coordinated clauses) reads:

" one knows, ...not even the Son, IF the Father did not know."

Jesus isn't here saying He Himself doesn't know the time. Jesus isn't even saying that the Father doesn't know either. Jesus is simply reminding them of how He Himself knows all the things He is telling them: The Father is the source of all knowledge, and Jesus knows all things because the Father knows all things.

The word "only" is not in Mark's text, but has often been mistakenly added in an attempt ot harmonize it with Matthew to satisfy a common misinterpretation of both passages.

Historically, the Latin translations of these passages were ambiguous, and the Western Church rarely referred to the original Greek. The lazy habit of turning Conditional Sentences into flat statements of fact, (removing their hypothetical nature) was however, a common occurance, even among Greek speakers (e.g. readings of Matt 24:36), and even in NT times! (see the obvious example in John 21:22-23!! Even the Apostles made this kind of interpretation of Jesus' conditional statements.)

- Modern Editors

If this "not knowing" cannot invalidate the positive concurrent assertions of Jesus, sealed with the divine stamp, " Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," no more can it invalidate His positive interpretations of the Old Testament, stamped before and behind with the affirmations of intimate knowledge of the thought, and purpose, and fulfillment in Himself of the Old Testament law and prophecy:

"I came not to destroy, but to fulfil" "the law and the prophets " ; 'And beginning from Moses, and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.' 'And He said unto them, These are My words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, how that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning Me." 'Then opened He their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures.' (Matt. 5: 17; Luke, 24: 27, 44, 45.)

The tremendous and overwhelming deluge of inference drawn by some writers from this unique assertion of " not knowing" by Jesus, has very little connection with the assertion, or with its context.

Materialist View
of the O.T. & N.T.

We are well aware that to Professor Kuenen and his followers the words of the New Testament have not the same force and authority that they have to us. To them the New Testament is no more veracious history than is the Old Testament:

" To the three stages of the development of religion in Israel, the prophetic, the Deuteronomic, and the priestly, answers a threefold conception of Israel's history. Again, in the apostolic and post-apostolic age, the Judaeo- Christian, the Pauline, and the Alexandrine conceptions of Christianity followed each other, and not infrequently came into collision ;

- and accordingly we find in the Gospels a Judaeo-Christian picture of the Christ, a modification of it in a Pauline sense by Luke, and then, as a result of the application of the Logos-idea to the traditional materials, a complete transformation and glorification of the teacher of Nazareth in the fourth Gospel. So it is, and so it must be." 8

But to us the New Testament is the word of God. And to the NT we turn to see if it is possible to separate the Saviour's interpretation of the Old Testament from the " practical religious " teachings He draws from that interpretation:

I. Jesus' Desert Temptation

No sooner does Jesus enter on His Messianic work through baptism and by the Holy Spirit, who descended upon and remained in Him, than He is led by 'the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.' He had no disciples, no followers. He was alone in all the world, with His great mission before Him, when, with enfeebled physical powers, He was assaulted by the subtlest, strongest temptations the human mind and heart can know. He must have been the historian of what passed between Him and the tempter in those hours of supremest import to Him and to the world, for there was no other human witness.

The accounts we have in Matthew 4: 1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13 must, then, represent the relation which Jesus gave of His contest with the supreme enemy of God. To each of Satan's temptations He replies by opposing, "It is written," quoting Deut. 8:3, 6: 16, 6:13. The statements He quoted were in His deepest consciousness and belief, as he avers, the "word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." In this first great contest He obtains the victory by absolute faith in the written word of the Old Testament. This experience of Jesus is in the highest sphere of the practical or ethical religious life, and the lesson He teaches all His followers, by His own account of the temptation, is, in their greatest tempations, to rest in utter faith on "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" as "It is written."

But if our opponents are correct, as they assert they are, in making Deut. chapters 12-26 a literary religious fiction, and chapters l-ll a still more doubtful production, then, as we see it, either this account of the temptation is a mere invention, saga, legend, which makes its hero (Jesus) obtain the victory over the supposed subtlest of all enemies by a trick; or, if the account is true, Jesus rested His soul on a quicksand and called it, as He believed it to be, the word proceeding out of the mouth of God.

Is there any " spiritual" or "practical religious " lesson here which can by any possibility be separated from the interpretation Jesus gives?

If Deut., chapters 6 and 8, is a literary fiction, can one believe Jesus to be anything more than a very ignorant man, mistaken in the deepest concerns of His own soul?

II. Jesus on Marriage & Genesis

The deepest foundation of all society, the bond without which morality disappears in the state, is the marriage tie. There is no question more intense, or more "practically religious," at all times, among all peoples, than that of the nature of this tie. Can it be loosed ? On what grounds ? Or is it indissoluble ? The law respecting marriage enters every single home. The Jews were no exception among the races of men in their intense interest concerning marriage and divorce.

They had, under the shield of Deut. 24:1, for centuries been accustomed to divorce their wives for trivial causes, but their minds were not at ease on the subject. Their greatest teachers gave contradictory decisions on the lawfulness of, and on the causes for divorce.

This most "practical religious" question, on the basis of Deut. 24:1, is brought to Jesus to entrap Him, (Matt. 19:3-9, Mark 10:2-9, Luke 16: 18); for the permission of Moses (Deut. 24: i) seemed to be contradictory to Genesis 2:24.

Jesus decides that the permission was exceptional and temporary, but God's controlling law was stated by God at His creation of man:

"Have ye not read that He, who made them from the beginning,
'made them male and female' (Gen. 1: 27),
and said,
'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife ; and the twain shall become one flesh '?"
(Gen. 2 : 24)

Here Jesus asserts that the statements in Genesis 1: 27, 2 : 24, are true, as history of God's creation of man (Matt. 19:8), as history in assigning priority of time to Genesis I : 27, 2 : 24, over Deut. 24: i ; (Matt. 19: 8). These words, He says, the Creator spoke, and they mark the supreme law of marriage; and this first law, Jesus declares, is the law for all men and all times.

But if Deut. 24:1 was not writen by Moses, as our opponents teach, and if Genesis chapters I and 2 are the merest sagas, legends, myths, of no more weight and worth as history than the Babylonian legends, from which they are said to be compiled, then Jesus is, as we see it, made nothing less than an ignorant, pretentious, false teacher, for He pretends to teach God's word on one of the most important points of the "practical religious" life, while in fact he teaches nothing but fiction, saga, legend.

Can any one separate the "practical religious" here from His interpretation ?

III. Jesus on the Law of God

There is no question which touches the spring of the "practical religious" life more keenly than the query, by The Rich Young Man, of Jesus (Matt. 19: 16-19, Mark 10: 17- 19; Luke 18: 18-20), "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"

Jesus replies, "If thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments." And then quotes six of the commandments given in Exodus 20: 12-17. The unavoidable inference is that Jesus believed and taught these commandments as part of the supreme requirement of God for entrance into eternal life, and that He believed them given by God; in other words, that Exodus 20: 12-17 is a true recital of God's revelation of His law.

Any other supposition would make Jesus play with the holiest, deepest longings of those who sought His advice. But if Exodus 20: 12-17 is not veracious history (as our opponents tell us), and if Jesus - who taught that His whole and only purpose in coming to earth was to fulfil the law and the prophets, and who certainly knew that law by heart - if He taught as God's law what God never revealed, then the claim of Jesus " to point to heaven and lead the way" is wholly discredited.

He claimed all through His life to teach only what God taught Him to say, but in this case He (if our opponents are right) taught as God's word what God never did say and could not have taught Him to say. Can any one separate the "practical religious" of Jesus' teaching here from His interpretation?

If our opponents are right in their "concision " of the Pentateuch can they, as honest men, hold Jesus to be any thing more than a man? Of course not; and, as we see it, they give us plainly to understand that they do not. How they can hold Jesus to be an honest man we cannot understand; but they, unlike the ribald critics, never speak of Him otherwise than respectfully.

But Jesus has not left us to mere inferences, however strong. He expressly asserts (Matt. 15 : 3-6; Mark 7: 8- 13) that "God said," "Honor thy father and mother" (Ex. 20: 12). And this "word of God," "commandment of God," He defines as revealed, by opposing it to the cherished merely human "tradition" by which the Jews had "made void the word of God."

But if, as we are told by our opponents, Ex. 20: 12 is no better authenticated than this tradition of the Jews, what respect could any one have for Jesus, who to oppose one tradition exalted another, of precisely similar origin, to the fictitious dignity of a revealed "word" and "commandment of God"?

If Jesus did not know with perfect certainty that Exodus 20 was spoken by God then, as we see it, He cannot by any art of apology be saved from being the most dishonest and false prophet the world has ever seen.

But Jesus goes further on this point. When asked by the lawyer (Matt. 22: 35-40; Mark 12: 28-31) "which is the great " "or first" "commandment in the law ? " He does not select one of those in Exodus 20, but asserts that in Deut. 6:4, 5, and Lev. 19:18, are found the commandments fundamental to all service of God, supreme love of God and love of our neighbor.

Jesus taught that Ex. 20 was God's true "word and commandment," and also that, in Deut. 6: 4, 5, and Lev. 19: 18, were found just as true "word and commandment," but of deeper and larger scope, pointing out the spiritual and moral basis in man for the right keeping of the word and commandment of God in Ex. 20. And He goes beyond this. He asserts that these two commandments are the substance, the real heart and outcome of the teaching of the whole Old Testament; " On these two commandments hangeth the whole law, and the prophets." He goes farther still. He declares that His own teaching and that of the whole Old Testament were in perfect agreement as to the state of the heart towards God and as to the highest " practical religious " life. "All things, therefore, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them" [that is the teaching of Jesus] : "for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7 : 12).

Now our opponents pronounce with all certainty, as of indubitable proof, that Deut. 6 and Lev. 19 belong to literary waifs and fictions. If so, what then will ye do with Jesus, who is called Christ?

For, if our opponents are correct, Jesus teaches a false law, a false basis for the false law, and is totally ignorant of the real spirit of the law and the prophets.

IV. Jesus on the Resurrection

In its reflex influence on the "practical religious" life we cannot estimate too highly the belief in the fact of the resurrection and of personal identity in the life beyond the grave. Even Kant has told us that without a belief in resurrection there can be no religion. And a far more profound thinker, philosopher and teacher, Paul, has summed up the whole degraded materialistic sequence of a denial of the resurrection in the sentence,

" If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."

Without the resurrection there can be no imperative morality, as there can be no righting the fierce wrongs of earth, the murders of the younger and righteous Abels by the older and unrighteous Cains, and, therefore, no belief in a righteous God.

The Sadducees of our Saviour's day, holding the great offices in the priesthood and government, and receiving fat salaries, were stark materialists, saying, "that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit." They propose to Jesus a question, framed from the Levirate law of marriage, which seemed to them, by its terms, an irreversible argument against the resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33; Mark 12: 18-27; Luke 20 : 27-40).

Jesus replies that the fact of the resurrection is plainly taught by God in the Book of Moses, in the section entitled, The Bush (Ex. 3 : 6), where "God spake unto him," that is, to Moses, and to you, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

Here Ex. 3:6 is declared by Jesus to be veracious history, that God did speak these words, and that these words declare the fact of the resurrection.

The Sadducees were keen enough to see that there was no intelligent answer to the proof given by Jesus and they kept silence; in this the Sadducees might very profitably be imitated by some duller eyed Christians, who confess the resurrection, but say they cannot see the proof of it iu the words which, Jesus says, teach it.

In this proof is also contained the equally positive assertion of the previous existence on earth, and, at the time when Ex. 3:6 was spoken by God, of the existence in another world, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom the Jews of our Saviour's day knew, and we know, only by Genesis, chapters 12-50.

If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had not lived on earth, were not real and well-known persons, there is no proof at all of the resurrection in Ex. 3:6. But our opponents tell us it is "absurd" to regard any of the Pentateuch as veracious history; that they prove by their "scientific exegesis" that there is no real history there; that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are names only, the wraiths of legends.

Well. But then, what shall we think of Jesus in this case? Can any one separate the "practical religious" from his interpretation here ?

V. Jesus on John and Himself

But one more point, and that the very heart of all that Jesus professed to be, to do, and to teach. John the Baptist had declared Jesus to be the Christ, foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament (Matt. 3 : 11, 12; Mark i : 7, 8; Luke 3 : 16, 17; John i : 15-18, 29-34;), and Jesus had repeatedly asserted (Matt. xi: 7-15; Luke 7 : 24-28 ; John 5: 33-36; Matt. 17 : 11-13; Mark 9: 12, 13 ; Matt. 21 : 25-27; Mark xi: 30-33 ; Luke 20: 4-8; etc.) that John's testimony was true; that John was a prophet sent from God in accordance with the prophecy of Malachi; that John was the greatest of all prophets.

Jesus had also just as plainly and repeatedly declared Himself to be the Christ, sent from God, equal in power, glory, and honor with God (John 4: 26; Matt. 7 : 21-23, xi: 27, 16 : 16, 17 ; Mark 8 : 29 ; Luke 9: 20; John 9: 35-37, xi: 25-27, etc.). It was on the third day before His death, which He had so often and minutely foretold to His disciples, that Jesus asks the Pharisees, well versed in the words of Scripture,

"How say the scribes that the Christ is the Son of David ? David himself said in the Holy Spirit,

The Lord said unto my Lord,
Sit Thou on My right hand,
Till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.

David himself calleth Him Lord; and whence is He his Son?"

(Mark 12: 35-37; Matt. 22: 41-45 : Luke 20: 41- 44).

Our Saviour's positive assertions here are, that "David himself" was the author of Ps. 110:1; that the Holy Spirit spoke through David in Ps. 110 : I; that "David himself" calleth "the Christ" Lord in this verse; that the Holy Spirit, through David, records that Jehovah said unto "the Christ," "Sit Thou on My right hand;" that is, Thou art my equal.

We are only concerned with this unavoidable inference and these positive assertions. Here is history and interpretation, and the weightiest, profoundest of all doctrines, so bound together that it is not in the power of thought to separate them without destroying each and all.

If Jesus is wrong here in history, interpretation, or doctrine, He is wrong everywhere.

Our opponents tell us that " Scientific exegesis " proves that David was not the author of Ps. 110:1; that the Holy Spirit did not speak through David, Ps. 110:1 ; that "David himself" did not call " the Christ" Lord in this verse ; that the Holy Spirit, through David, did not record that Jehovah said unto " the Christ," "Sit Thou on my right hand ; " that the Christ of the New Testament was not the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament; that " the Christ" was not, is not God.

We might cite many more, but these quotations are amply sufficient to illustrate the point that the interpretation by Jesus of the Old Testament and the lessons He draws by that interpretation cannot be divorced ; "they are one flesh."

Final Court of Appeal

There is one further point which Professor Kuenen touches upon, and which must not be overlooked, for, in the final summing up of any mooted question depending on witnesses, it is of the highest importance and decisive; the character of the witnesses, and the explanation of the recorded events by the law of cause and effect.

If a witness testifies on one side, whose character is spotless, who has the most intimate knowledge of all the facts involved, whose intelligence is equal to every proof, and whose absolute disinterestedness cannot be doubted; and on the other side are men, however honest and capable, yet limited in knowledge, and who confess before the whole world their narrow limitation, by altering their statements in new editions of their testimony, and who, in all honesty, cannot claim to be absolutely disinterested : if these are the two sides, is there any question what the decision of an intelligent, impartial, well-informed judge would be?

Those who testify against Jesus on the matters concerning the chief point of His mission and of the good of the world cannot avoid the inexorable final test of all witnesses, whether before a secular or literary court, or before the court of the individual soul, the full comparison of the character of the persons on either side. And it is by this test that the vast majority of men decide, who have calmly faced the point.

As to the explanation, by the law of cause and effect, of the events recorded in the Bible as miracles, we may say with a German, a great scholar of the Old Testament, "Granted God, and miracles are in order."

But if, with Professor Kuenen, "supernatural intervention in any degree at any point" is denied ; in other words, if the personal God is put out of the account, not only are there no miracles, but there is no sufficient rational explanation of the world or life or morality, and we would have to confess with the pessimists that life is not worth having.


We are heartily in agreement with the statement of our opponents, honest and clear, that if one regards the exposition of Jesus as final he cannot accept our opponents' "scientific exegesis," and if one accepts their " scientific exegesis," he cannot regard Jesus as an infallible teacher.

Amen, so be it.

According to the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, according to Jesus' own words, according to our opponents, themselves being judges honest and candid, Jesus is the final dividing line and the final test of all interpretation of Scripture, even as He alone is the final judge of all.

And His words are,

"He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me. ... He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My sayings, hath One that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I spake not from Myself; but the Father who sent Me ; He hath given Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak."

(John 12:44, 48, 49)

Howard Osgood.
Rochester Theological Seminary

Original Footnotes:

1. Professor Kuenen's statement of " The Critical Method " will be found in The Modern Review July and October, 1880. His views of the character and knowledge and authority of Jesus Christ will be found in his Prophets and Prophecy in Israel, London, 1877, pp. 447-548, especially p. 547. Those who wish to get a short, clear, honest statement of the principles and results of this " scientific «xegesis," at small price and without the wearying processes, will find it in Professor Toy's History of the Religion of Israel, Boston, Unitarian Sunday School Society, 1882, 50 cts.; in Knappert (Kuenen) Religion of Israel, Boston, 1878, $1; in Oort & Hooykaas (Kuenen) Bible for Learners, Boston, 1878-81, 2 vols. (Old Test.), $2 per vol.; and as to their views of the Saviour's authority in Old Testament interpretation, in Professor Toy's Quotations in the New Testament, Scribners, 1884, $3.50.

2. Prophets, p. 585.

3. Modem Rev., July, Oct., 188o.

4. Modern Rev., p. 463.

5. Prophets, p. 547.

6. Prophets, pp. 448, 487.

7. Toy, Quot. xxviii.

8. Mod. Rev. Oct. 1880, p. 705.

Return to Index