Friday, September 25, 2015

Louis Gaussen on Textual Criticism

"Let Sacred Criticism be a Historian, not a Conjuror"

We value highly, for the church of God, every labor which makes her understand a passage better; yes, were it only one passage, one single word of the holy Scriptures. But when you pass on to crude hypotheses; when you embrace a thousand conjectures concerning the sacred writers, to make their word depend on the hazard of their presumed circumstances, instead of regarding their circumstances as prepared and chosen of God in reference to their ministry; when you subordinate the nature, the abundance or brevity of these instructions to more of less fortunate concurrence of their ignorance or of their recollections; - this is to degrade inspiration, and to bring down the character of the word of God; it is to lay deep the foundations of infidelity; it is to forget that 'men of God spake as the were moved (φερόμενοι) by the Holy Ghost, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13)

It has been asked, “Did the Evangelists read each others writings?” And what is that to me, if they were all 'moved by the Holy Ghost;' and if, like the Thessalonians, I receive their book, 'not as the word of man, but as it is, in truth, the word of God.' Let this question be proposed in its place, it may be entirely innocent; but it is so no longer when it is discussed as it has been, and when so much importance is attached to it. Can the solution of it throw light on one single passage of the sacred books, and establish their truths more firmly? We do not believe that it can.

When we hear it asked whether St. John had read the Gospels of the other three; if St. Mark and St. Luke had read the Gospel of St. Matthew before writing their own; when we hear it asked whether the Evangelists did anything more than describe with discernment the most important portions of oral traditions; when we see great volumes written upon these questions, to attack or defend these systems, as if faith and even science were truly interested in it, and as if the answers were very important to the Christian Church; when we hear it affirmed that the first three Evangelists had consulted some original document now lost; Greek, according to some; Hebrew, according to others; when we see men plunging still farther into this romantic field; when we see them reaching the complicated drama of the Bishop of Landaff (Herbert Marsh - aku), with his first Hebrew historical document, his second Hebrew dogmatic document, his third Greek document, (a translation of the first); then his documents of the second class, formed by the translation of Luke, and Mark, and Matthew, which finally reduces the sources to seven, without counting three others, peculiar to St. Luke and St. Mark; or even, again, when we see Mr. Veysie in England, and Dr. Gieseler in Germany, deriving either the first three Gospels, of the four Gospels from apocryphal histories previously circulated among the Christian churches; when we see the first of these Doctors determining that Mark has copied them with a more literal exactness than Luke, on account, they say, of his ignorance of the Greek; while Matthew's Gospel, written at first in Hebrew, must, doubtless, have been translated afterward into Greek by a person who modified it to make it correspond with Mark and Luke, and, finally, gave it to us as we have it; when we see these systems exhibited, not in a few phrases in the indulgence of a light curiosity, but so many and such great volumes written upon them as if they involved the interests of the kingdom of God; Oh! we must say it, we feel, in the view of all such science, a sentiment profoundly painful. But, after all, is that science? Is judicial astrology a science? No; and these men are no longer philosophers: they have abandoned facts; they prophesy the history of the past; they are, alas! the astrologers of theology.”

Louis Gaussen, “Theopneusty, or The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures,” (Sacred Criticism, A Historian, Section II)

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