Изображения страниц



scientific objectors further add that Genesis is erroneous also in principle, inasmuch as it clearly describes the creation of distinct species, and especially asserts most strongly the radical dissimilarity of man from other animals; while Science is ever more and more tending to the conclusion that species are the result, not of creation, but of natural development, variation, and selection; that man is no exception to this, but is, after all, no more than a developed, educated, or selected

To these objections against the Scripture cosmogony, the most diverse replies have been given, according to the taste, prejudice, or predilection of the replicant. They may be classified, however, roughly into the same three groups as those noticed under the first head.

First, we have those who deny the contradictory assertions of Science as untrue. The time, order, manner, and principle of creation, according to these, were, in fact, exactly as Genesis represents; the objections of Science are false and unfounded. The fossil remains on which geologists lay stress are either pure illusions, or the results of the Deluge; the formation of rocks was carried on in a manner and at a speed wholly unlike anything observable at the present day, if, indeed, they were not at once created just as they are, without any process formation at all; the inferences deduced from the position and order of strata are hazardous and presumptuous; the supposed natural origin of species little, if at all, short of atheistic blasphemy. As in the former case, it is to be noted that this line of answer, at first the most prevalent and popular, is now in regard to the most important objections in question, those, viz., of time and manner, pretty well given up; the intrinsic weakness and uncertainty of the other two (those of order and principle) allowing it there, however, full action still. But with respect to the time and manner of creation, the advocates of Scripture now generally adopt the second line of answer before indicated,—that, namely, of denying the contradiction by modifying the interpretation of Scripture.

This group of replicants is a very large one, and may conveniently be again subdivided into three. The first of these subdivisions consists of those who hold that the narrative of Gen. i. is a full, proper, and scientifically accurate account of the creation of the earth, the days spoken of being, not literal days of twenty-four hours each, but vast periods of indefinite duration, corresponding, and meant to correspond, to the periods disclosed by Geology. Some maintain this view by a larger and more comprehensive, but still simple scheme of interpretation, by which the narrative becomes a kind of pictorial or symbolical representation of the reality, couched in the language of appearances, and so in some respects partial and inadequate, but still, so far as it goes, in perfect accordance with Science. Others, unsatisfied with this, seek by new renderings of the Hebrew text to make the narrative do still more, and not only agree with Science, but anticipate Science, speak in scientific terms, and reveal their own peculiar cosmogonic theories without flaw or difference. Others, proceeding on the same track, but still more daring, reject altogether the received manner of even reading Hebrew, regard the sacred language as a sealed casket of which the key has long been lost, discover the key in their own knowledge of the analogies of language, and of course unlock a hidden treasure of cosmogonic lore which had hitherto lain concealed within. The second subdivision of this group consists of those who hold that the days of Genesis are literal days, and assign the ages of Geology to a period between the original creation of the heavens and the earth spoken of in the first verse, and the state of darkness and desolation described in the second. Even these, however, are not by any means agreed among themselves, some regarding the chaos, and subsequent development of order and life, as referring to one particular part only of the earth's surface, a part, as it happens, of which geologists at present know very little ; others regarding them as coextensive with the entire globe. Then, as the third subdivision, there are yet others who adopt a sort of middle course, agreeing with the first in regarding the six-days' work as descriptive of the whole history of creation, yet refusing with the second to view these days as intended to be looked upon as representatives of six gigantic periods. According to these, the cosmogony of Genesis is a poetical sketch of the order and method of creation, cast into the parabolic form of a week's work for the religious instruction of the unscientific people for whom it was primarily intended ; accordant, therefore, with Science in its essential principles and broader outlines, but involving of necessity more or less discrepance in detail and outward form, and in particular being altogether inadequate to convey a scientific view in regard to time, which was regarded as of little importance for the particular purposes in view.

The third main group of replicants—those who concede the contradiction alleged to exist between Scripture and Science but deny its importance-adopt a line not altogether unlike that last described, differing, however, in this: that they ignore or deny the fundamental scientific accuracy which the former lay special stress upon, and ascribe the peculiarities of the narrative rather to the influence of tradition, or the fancy of the writer, than to any real knowledge of the true state of the case. According to these, also, religious instruction was the great object of the cosmogony; and this remaining true, even when the form in which it was conveyed has been proved to be false, the surrender of the latter is a matter of little consequence.

The next section of Genesis to be considered is that containing the history of the Fall. This is said to involve the following contradictions :—1st, in respect to the entrance of suffering and death; Genesis regarding these as the result of the fall of man; Geology teaching plainly that they had existed ages before, and had, in fact, been the rule of creation throughout all time. 2nd, in respect to the curse on the serpent; Genesis describing its crawling habit as the punishment awarded for its crime in tempting Eve; Anatomy and Physiology proving that, on the contrary, it is the inevitable result of its organization; and Geology showing that serpents always had crawled about as at present, hundreds of thousands of years before Adam could have lived upon the earth. 3rd, in respect to the curse on the ground; Genesis regarding the productions of thorns, thistles, &c., as the penalty of Adam's transgression; Science teaching that they are but the normal growth of the ground existing in full vigour for ages previous.

To these objections we have, as before, three several groups of answerers :

First, those who deny the allegations of Science, who believe that physical suffering and death did come into the world through the Fall, and had not existed there previously; that serpents did then for the first time begin to crawl upon the ground; that thorns and thistles did then for the first time spring up.

Then, second, there are those who admit the allegations, but deny the contradiction. Some seek to explain the difficulties by limiting the suffering and death spoken of to man; by regarding the curse upon the serpent as metaphorical, purporting disgrace and defeat to the spiritual tempter, not physical degradation to the agent; and viewing the production of thorns, &c., either as a greater and more abundant production than heretofore, or as a new thing merely by contrast with the previous experience of Adam in the garden of Eden. Some prefer to get over the second objection by a new rendering of the Hebrew, regarding the tempter as an ourangoutang, or some other species of ape, rather than a serpent; while others, again, interpret the whole narrative as an allegory, written to explain in pictorial and symbolical form the origin

and consequences of human sin, whose expressions must not, therefore, be taken literally.

Thirdly, there are those who admit the contradictions alleged, at least in part, but deny their importance. These also adopt a kind of allegorical interpretation; not, however, like the last mentioned, as the method intended by the writer to be employed, but merely as our method of extracting the kernel of truth from that which the writer, guided either by tradition or his own fancy, regarded as true throughout.

The history of the Deluge recorded in Gen. vi. viii. furnishes the next ground of objection; the Scripture narrative, it is urged, plainly describing a strictly universal flood, which Science as distinctly disproves; 1st, by the phenomena observable in regard to certain volcanic hills in the south of France; 2nd, by the impossibility of the collection and redistribution of all existing species of animals from all parts of the earth; 3rd, by the utter insufficiency of the ark described to accommodate all these, and various difficulties connected with their preservation. Other minor objections of similar character are also urged, which need not be detailed at length.

The answers to these alleged contradictions fall into the same three groups as before :

First of all, we have those which maintain the view of a universal deluge, by denying the force of the objections ; which speak of the evidence derived from the volcanic hills of France as delusive and unsound, and get over the other difficulties by a plentiful assumption of miracles, either in the way of a supernatural gathering and preservation of the animals in question, or of a new creation of large numbers of fresh species in various places after the Deluge. Many new and original scientific theories as to the causes and manner of operation of the flood, harmonizing with its universality, also find ready currency among the controversialists of this school.

Then, Second, we have those answers which concede the justice of the scientific objections, but elude their force by modifying the interpretation of Scripture. These maintain the view that the deluge was only partial, being caused by the depression of the land in one particular portion of the earth's surface; a part, again, as it happens, of which geologists as yet know very little. The majority of these answers still uphold the universality as regards man; a few concede its partiality in this respect also.

While, Thirdly, there are yet other answers which admit the objections altogether, but deny their importance. According to these, the actual deluge was no doubt partial, as respects both animals and man, but was regarded by the writer of the narrative as universal; whose account is hence fairly open to the scientific objections raised against it, which cannot, however, touch the fundamental spiritual truths which lie within it.

The next class of objections are those concerning Scriptural Ethnology, suggested by the account of the descendants of Noah in Gen. x., and that of the confusion of tongues in the former part of Gen. xi. Here it is urged,-1st, that Scripture is wrong in certain details, as especially the assignment of the Canaanites and Chaldeans to a Hamite origin, whom Philology teaches were Semites; and other similar instances. 2nd, that Scripture is wrong also in its fundamental view, representing the existing diversity of languages as brought about by supernatural interference, instead of as the inevitable result of natural causes. To which, 3rd, some also add a still graver charge, involved, indeed, in previous sections, but most conveniently considered here, that Scripture errs in speaking of all tribes and nations as descended from a common parentage.

The first and third of these objections are at present too much disputed among scientific men themselves for theological opponents to trouble themselves much concerning them, and they are hence generally met in the spirit of the first general group of answers :-your Science is incorrect. In respect to the second objection, however, there are some who prefer to concede the apparently natural origin of languages by altering their interpretation of the Biblical history of Babel. While there are yet others who on all three points are prepared, if necessary, to admit the objections as valid, but deny their importance.

Lastly, the genealogical lists of Gen. v. and xi., defining the interval of time between Adam and Abraham, afford the objector one more weighty charge yet. The Hebrew Scriptures, it is said, by these lists require us to place the creation of man as somewhat less than 6,000 years ago, whereas the evidence derived from the geological position of his implements and bones, and his demonstrated contemporaneousness with animals long extinct, confirmed by the length of time which ethnologists and philologists assert to be necessary for the development of races and languages, goes to prove that he must have existed on the earth for a vastly longer period.

The majority of theological advocates adopt here the first mode of answer, and deny the validity of the scientific argument; some by representing the implements in question as purely natural productions, the human bones as merely

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »