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BIBLICAL criticism is not an invention of yesterday, though as a science, and a science sanctioned and prosecuted by recognized leaders of the Jewish and Christian Churches, it is modern. Jesus, according to Matt. v. 21-44, xii. 41, criticized the Law and the Prophets, while Paul and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews pronounce the Mosaic Law as at best but a temporary preparation for the Gospel. In the first centuries of Christianity the freest and boldest criticism of the Bible was employed by both orthodox and heretical Christians, either apologetically, by the most daring use of allegory, or negatively, by appeals to the higher teaching of the Spirit. With the Reformation of the sixteenth century, leaders like Erasmus and Luther amongst Catholics and Protestants, or like Schwenk


feld and Sebastian Franck amongst the sects, called in question the genuineness, the inspiration, and the authority, either of passages, or of books, of the Old and the New Testaments.

But it was not till the closing decades of last century that criticism became systematic, as based on a clearly recognized principle, and followed according to strict method. The principle is that the Bible is a literature, subject to all the laws of literature, in its origin, its contents, and its transmission. The method is accordingly that of all true literary and historical criticism, whether the text and the authorship, or the meaning of the text and the author, or the collection and the transmission of the various books, have to be ascertained. It is quite true that during the last hundred years the full force of this principle and method has often been only hesitatingly acknowledged and haltingly followed by even those who claim to be critics. But almost year by year both principle and method have obtained

fuller sway

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