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THE BOOK TABLE.
JESUS : His LIFE AND Work as Narrated by the Four Evangelists. By
Howard Crosby. New York: University Publisbing Company. 1871. Pp. 550, 800.
Dr. Crosby has here set himself honestly and laboriously to do what he announces, viz: “To let the life of Jesus speak for itself; to take the narratives of the evangelists and make one out of four, only adding such matter as a knowledge of the Greek language and Palestine topography might suggest. In this way I have endeavored to fill out the pictures of the sacred writers, without the aid of mere fancy, and never to go beyond the limits that the text warrants." He rightly believes — as against much modern flippant remark- in the practicability of constructing a harmony, with a 'clear coincidence in the great outlines, and without contradiction in por. traying diffirent sides of one fact. This last point he aptly illustrates thus: “Ten thousand years hence a history may be preserved which will speak of a Corsican named Bonaparte astonishing Europe by the victory of Marengo, and sitting, with his wife Josephine, on the throne of France. Another history will tell of a Frenchman named Napoleon, whose wife was the Aus. trian archduchess, Marie Louise, who made his fame by the battle of Austerlitz, and ruled with despotic sway over Italy, Germany, Holland, and France. The criticism wbich finds discrepancies in the four gospels could never reconcile these two histories of the same Emperor."
Besides its thoroughly reverent spirit this narrative has many excellent features. It is contained within a reasonable compass. Its mechanical execution is inviting. Its one hundred and three maps and engravings are real illustrations, aptly selected, and many of them novel. The life is a narrative, and not a series of disquisitions. We read, in general, the results and not the processes of investigation. It is written in the most direct of styles, everything translated into the language of ordinary lite, and invested, so far as possible, with all the accessory facis and circumstances. There is no attempt at “fine writing," although in many parts, as in describing the arrest of our Saviour (p. 464) and His ascension (p. 527), the narrative be. comes eminently graphic by its simple directness. If we were looking for a Life of Christ to place in the hands of a young person, in order to give him a compact and clear apprehension of that wonderful history, we know of none that would answer the purpose better.
Of course judgments will differ in regard to a multitude of details. It strikes us at times that the language chosen to represent the meaning of
the narrative is almost too homely, and that in some of the deviations from the common version there is no gain in clearness while there is a loss in dignity and sometimes in point or even precision. “Leading a brilliant life in daily luxury" (p. 351) is more cumbrous and not much more exact than “fared sumptuously every day;" “ distressed in this flame" less correct than “tormented;" "manure-heap" no gain upon “dung-hill” (p. 343) in any respect; "when thou givest a luncheon party ” (p. 340) fails after all to convey quite the right impression; "bags, bundles, and utensils" is rather a large liberty with the one word ozbūUS, etc.
We might also doubt some of the translations: “That the strifes may be revealed from many hearts” (p. 35) is unsupported by usage. “Am well pleased" should be changed not into “ have been was well pleased " (p. 73). “Even if he be dead” (p. 330) should probably read “die." "The kingdom of God always is among you” (p. 354), misses the point by the unwarrantable insertion of “alıdays.” “Ye who speak are nothing, but the Holy Spirit” (p. 417), seems to us wrong and our version right. By making Christ's blessing of little children chiefly a lesson of "faith and humility" (p. 360) the author fails to give the direct and clear meaning of the transaction and the utterance. We can not see how “Nazarene,” in Matt, ii, 23, has any connection with Nazarite; we find no reason to regard the desert of Sinai as the place of temptation (p. 74); we should not derive “Iscariot" from Issachar (p. 147); our Hebrew versions" (p. 97) is an oversight; it is doubtful whether we should positively assign the “Magi" to Chaldea (p. 35); we find it difficult in view of other usage, to understand Mark's “third hour” (XV, 25) as the third hour “ since the Sanhedrim had carried Jesus to Pilate" (p. 493), or to see how the simple distance of Nathaniel's "retirement" should have made our Saviour's allusion so striking and so convincing to him (p. 87). We had noted other similar points, wbich perhaps it is not necessary to enumerate. We should not incline so wholly to overlook the diverse reading (eúdoxias) of the angels' song (p. 31), nor to decide so posi. tively in favor of the genuineness of John v, 4. Such minor matters, how. ever, do not prevent this Life from being a judicious and scholarly work.
LANGE's CRITICAL, DOCTRINAL, AND HOMILETICAL COMMENTARY. The
Gospel of St. John. Translated and Edited by P. Scbaff, D.D. New York : C. Scribner & Co. Chicago : W. G. Holmes. Pp. 654, 8vo.
This portion of Lange's Commentary has been looked for with more interest than most of the volumes, because of the s'riking character of the gospel, the lack of good detached commentaries upon it, and the preliminary announcement that this would“ be universally regarded as the Commen. tary of Commentaries upon the Gospel of Gospels.' The American editor has added a very large amount of labor to what may be regarded as one of the best of Lange's expositions. The additions amount to one-third, appear. ing in almost every paragraph. Among the excellencies and conveniences of the work may be reckoned: the brief notices of text-readings, brought down to the present time; the sober and spiritual character of the exposi
tion; the common enumeration of diverse views, considerably supplemented by Dr. Schaff; the large amount of suggessive material accumulated round the text; the use of the latest sources, English and German. The editor's range of selected matter is very wide, as is the breadth of his scholarship. The work is a valuable accession to the apparatus for the study of this wonderful gospel, and the more so in proportion to the wisdom and skill of the student. Ordinary readers and students will be somewhat disappointed in their expectations of the “Commentary of Commen'aries," and scholars will still wait for the appearance of such a phenomenon. The points of shortcoming - some of tbem, however, inseparable from the original plan are: (1) The lack of unity, of which the editor himself speaks in his preface. (2) The very common want of clear, compact statement, such as marks the best English commentators, wbich would not only save room, but make the exposition more intelligible. In this respect the editor is not faultless. Thus, in his long note on “ born of water and of Spirit,” (iii., 14) he seems to start rightly, puts forth a promise of the right exposition, and grows dimmer to the end, leaving one a little in doubt at last what he does mean. So while the eleinents of a right interpretation of i., 14 (" born not of blood,” etc.) are set before us, it is doubtful, notwithstanding the labors of both Lange and Schaff, wbether the reader will find the interpretation. We could instance numerous cases of the kind. (3) A superfluous accumulation of material. Many of the extracts and notes are pot called for, and rather confuse than help. The interpretations are often loaded with side-issues and topics; and thus, the more important the passage and the greater the labor to make it clear, the more cumbrous, often, the exposition. (4) The relative subordination of the exegetical element. The author, though generally judicious, is not especially strong in this respect, and the editor is more a theologian and historian than an interpreter. For those who desire it we will not object to the amount of “theological and homiletical” matter that swel's the volume; but we desire in a commentary a more thorough exegesis. Notwithstanding the mass of material and the frequent brightness of suggestion, the discussion often fails to be complete or exhaustive.
For example, while the three propositions of i, 1, might be much more sharply brought out, both author and editor fail to give the real additional proposition of verse second. They fail to give the full thought of the “huth everlasting life” (iii, 35), which Lange simply speaks of as "this inwardness of eternal life Both fail to sustain their rendering of avwley (iii, 3) " from above” by the very important consideration of John's own unmistakable use in the same chapter (v. 31) as well as xix, 11, 23, and to answer the argument from Nicodemus's phrase " a second time," etc. Gen. erally, however, the results reached are judicious. Dr. Schaff corrects Lange's unwarranted translation “suppressed” in i, 5, for apprehended ; but falls into his error (xi, 25) of attributing necessarily a "past" signification to an aorist in the subjunctive mood (“ have died ” for “die”) – whereas, the aorist in the other moods than the indicative carries simply the notion
of transient action, irrespective of date. We observe that the editor accepts the omission of v, 4, with Tischendorf and others; while he unhesitatingly rejects the attempt to find only an “unfermented juice of the grape" in the wine of Cana. We can hardly assent to occasional views, such as that the “irresistible effect” is one of the points of comparison between the wind and the Spirit in John iii, and (in explaining the phrase “ only begotten son”) “ the term is called figurative, but it is more correct to say that all earthly relationships of fathers and filial affection are a figure and reflection of the eternal fatherhood of God and the eternal Sonship of Christ.” On a question of construction (as the emphasis of 7), i, 9) he can hardly correct Meyer, nor does he stand quite on the plane of Alford's critical scholarship
On the whole, this commentary, if it be not the end of all commentaries on John, will be received as containing a large amount of valuable sugges. tion.
CHRISTIANITY AND POSITIVISM. Lectures on the “Ely Foundations,''
Union Theological Seminary, New York. By James McCosh, D.D., LL.D. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. Chicago : W. G. Holmes. Pp. 369.
One of these lectures, upon Renan, and the Life of Jesus not a Romance, has been published also in the Philadelphia Course of Lectures, 1870–71. Among the noticeable things in the volume is the use of “ law entirely in the sense of "order." “Cause" is also used in the multiple sense which Mill has attempted to substitute for the established English sense - including all the antecedents to an effect, taken or massed together, on the meaning of the word as if it were (what it is not) a noun of multitude. It is thus Dr. McC. supposes he can best refute Huxley on protoplasm, when he admits that the elements of protein must be present under certain conditions in order to produce “the physical basis of life." But it is as good an answer, if not better, to say, that, all the various sorts and degrees of property or power belonging to these elements being present, another power, which is, par .eminence, cause, changes protein into protoplasm ; and it needs but one. Nor is Dr. McC. consistent with himself or sound philosophy when he says we are entitled to argue that every effect must have a cause.” We are entitled to argue for no positions which can be disproved. But this is a proposition we do not argue for : but are entitled to affirm. So he uses “Ends" as a synonyme for Final Cause, which is loose thinking. He evidently mistakes the philosophical meaning of "substance;” no good thinker conceives of it as a substratum supporting things, but only as supporting attributes, and together therewith, constituting things. All he says about things not needing any addition to them for outside support, has no point. He closes up his refutation of Nescience with the proposition : “We have a full knowledge of a thing only when we know its causes. [Aggregate conditions a la Mill.) We have a very imperfect knowledge of the works of nature till we view them as works of God;" which is all very
true, but God is not “causes," but canse singular, - that one pre-eminent, adequate producing power, which ranks above all conditions. So he mis. quotes Aristotle,—“we know things in their causes.” But tyv aporty altiav is singular number; Aristotle had never thought of Mill's doctrine, or of cause or reason as a noun of multitude. It is also to be noticed, as in other works of this excellent author, that he often falls into a mixture of metaphors, and loose, hasty constructions that mar style and sense, and bis nominatives are in some instances sudly awry, as on p. 164, "it" and "they”- interchangeably referring to “ the party of Free Thought." So practised a writer as Dr. McC. might avoid such errors.
This volume contains three series of lectures - 1. Christianity and Physical Science; II. Christianity and Mental Science; III. Christianity and Historical Investigation. No other volume of the sort criticises Mill, Huxley, Bain, Darwin, Tyndall, Büchner, Spencer, Comte, Parker, Buck'e, Barker, Wallace, Maudesley, Hume, Emerson, Renan, and “Ecce Homo." The answers to unbelievers are often shrewd, terse, acute, and happy. More than one epigrammatic turn enlivens Dr McCosh's pages. And great can. dor and intelligence mark his discussions throughout.
The title, “ Christia uity and Positivism,” does not correctly indicate the character of the book, which ranges widely over the evidences of Christianity. Perhaps its mistake consists in attempting to cover more ground than one man can well mavage, without more preparation. With many good points, it exhaustively discusses nothing. It is rather popular than profound — marked rather by width than depth; and therefore perhaps better fitted for general reading than specially adapted to the wants of professional students. Accompanied by Dr. McCosh's personal presence and earnest manner, and addressed to a sympathet'c audience, we can easily conceive that these lectures should be quite effective; but they hardly constituie a great book. Some of the subjects of his painting would probably deny the correctness of the portraiture.
Can a Scotchman (or an Irishman or Dutchman,) ever learn the distinction between shall and will ?" I would be constrained to seek for a causa," etc., p. 18.
“I am sure I will be able to discover," p. 23. “I am confident I will be able to point out a curious adaptation,” p. 24.
LANGE'S CRITICAL, DOCTRINAL AND HOMILETICAL COMMENTARY. JERE
MIAH AND LAMENTATIONS. By Dr. C. W. E. Nægelsbach. Edited by Rev S. R. Asbury and W. H. Hornblower, D.D. New York: Charles Scribner & Co. Cuicago: W. G. Holmes. Pp 642, 800.
As the herald of disaster and the organ of rebuke and lamentation, Jeremiah has attracted less attention, both from the reader and the expositors, than some other writers of the Old Testament. There is also a lack of decisive bistorical incidents, an absence of clear arrangement in the deliverances, a reiteratiou in the strain, and perhaps a waut of the more remark. able poetic qualities of style, which have made his writings relatively less prominent. For this reason the critical apparatus on this prophet has been