By James H. Brookes
Higher Criticism claims to be handmaid of the Bible. But small value can be attached to the services of a handmaid whose principal business is to find fault with the mistress, and to pick her character to pieces until the lowest scullion retails the gossip. Ingersoll’s latest assault upon the Bible, apart from its vile and vulgar blasphemy, and its trifling manner of dealing with so grave a subject, is made with weapons borrowed wholly from the Higher Critics. It may be well, therefore, to examine the mistakes and contradictions which these learned gentlemen fancy they have discovered in the sacred Scriptures. The very strongest of their objections will be considered.
1. Prof. Briggs starts out by saying: “In Matthew xxvii. 9, the following citation is made: ‘Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price.’ But this passage is not found in Jeremiah. It is really from Zechariah xi. 12, 13.” But it is really not there: “I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potterra goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord,” Zech. xi. 12, 13. But there is more than this.
Observe (1) that Matthew does not say, that which was written, but “that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet.” Can Prof. Briggs prove that Jeremiah did not speak these words? (2) Zechariah says, “Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets?” Zech. vii, 7. Can Prof. Briggs prove that the words which Matthew quotes were not among the words Jeremiah cried? (3) The purpose of Matthew is evidently not to make the thirty pieces of silver, for which Judas betrayed the Lord, the principal thing, but to state the confession, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,” and the use to which the thirty pieces of silver were put: “And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me,” Matt, xxvii. 3, 10. It turns out that Jeremiah was the prophet who spoke about the potter’s house and the marred vessel, and “the blood of innocents,” Jer. xviii. 14; xix. 1-4. So then it is not Matthew who is in error, but Prof. Briggs, for Jeremiah certainly spoke the original and fundamental passage.
2. The Professor says, “In Mark 1 2, we find these words: ‘Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy 'way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’ The evangelist seems to have overlooked the fact that one of these passages is from Malachi iii. 1. Here are two slips of memory on the part of the evangelists, such as any writer is liable to make.” If so, they were not fit to be evangelists nor historians, for a school boy would know the names of the authors quoted.
But Prof. Briggs is well aware that the Authorized Version gives, “It is written in the prophets,” and that the Revised Version which says, “It is written in Isaiah the prophet,” adds in the margin, “Some ancient authorities read in the prophets.” Why could not the Professor assume that the Authorized Version and the marginal reading are correct in this instance, or that the later prophet repeated an earlier prophet, as is often the case? There was an old Roman writer who said, 4 ‘I will find a discrepancy, or make one.” The Professor is obviously acting on this principle in dealing with the word of God.
3. The next alleged error he borrows from Prof. L. J. Evans, of Lane Theological Seminary: he supposes that one of Stephen’s hearers replied to him, “You have said that Abraham left Haran after the death of his father Terah; whereas if you study the figures in Genesis you will find that Terah must have lived fifty years or more in Haran after Abraham left,” Acts vii. 4. Even if Stephen was mistaken, no one pretends that he was inspired, and inspiration does not express God’s approval of everything written in the Bible, although it gives us an unerring record of what was done and said. But Stephen was not mistaken. There is no proof whatever that Abraham was Terah’s eldest son, though mentioned first on account of his prominence, as Moses is mentioned before Aaron, who was the elder, and as is common in all languages and nations. Abraham may have been the youngest son, which Jewish writers concede, so far as we know, born when Terah was 130 years old. It would follow then that Abraham left Haran at the age of 75, his father having previously died at the age of 205 years, Gen. xi 27, 32
4. He borrows still from Prof. Evans: “You v r ere mistaken, also, in saying that Abraham bought the sepulchre of the sons of Hamor in Shechem. If you look into the matter a little more closely you will find that that was Jacob, and that Abraham bought his purchase at Hebron of Ephron the Hittite,” Acts vii. 16. Shechem, or Sychem in the Septuagint form of the word, was the first place Abraham reached in Canaan, “and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him,” Gen. xii. 6, 7. When he returned from Egypt he went “unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at first,” Gen. xiii. 4. He clearly had a proprietary right in it; and the man who would not recieve at the hands of the king of Sodom “from a thread even to a shoelatchet,” Gen. xiv. 23, the man who was so scrupulous in buying ground that was offered to him for nothing, Gen. xxiii. 5-13, would certainly purchase the land at Shechem.
In the course of one hundred and eighty-five years that elapsed, it may have fallen again into the possession of the Shechemites, for Jacob bought a parcel of a field at Shechem, Gen. xxxiii. 18, 19, besides the portion which, he tells us, “I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow,” Gen. xlviii. 22. The Vulgate and other versions supply son instead of father, and make it read, “of the sons of Emmor the son of Sychem,” the words “father of,” in the Authorized Version being in italics, and therefore not belonging to the text. This would carry us back to a Shechem and Emmor or Hamor antecedent to Abraham, and quite different from those of whose sons Jacob made the purchase. There is no evidence whatever that Abraham did not buy the land at Shechem, or that he did not buy it for a sepulchre, and as he was a stranger and pilgrim, wandering about, and had three hundred and eighteen servants born in his house, Gen. xiv. 14, it is altogether probable that he had more than one burial place, so that the objection to Stephen’s accuracy amounts to nothing.
5. Another objection the Professor borrows from Prof. Preserved Smith of Lane Seminary: “The high places were not taken away: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect with Jahveh all his days,” 1 Kings xv, 14. “And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of Jahveh ids God: for he. took away the strange altars, and the high places, and brake down the pillars and hewed down the Asherim,” 2 Chron. xiv. 1, 2. Here the Professors are sure that we have a flat contradiction; but if they were as familiar with the Bible as they are with Higher Criticism, they would know that there were “high places” devoted to the worship of Jehovah, as well as “high places'’ given up to tile worship of idols, 1 Kings iii. 2-4; xxii. 43; 2 Kings xii. 2, 3; xiv. 3, 4; xv. 3, 4; 1 Chron. xvi. 39, 40, etc. There is a marked distinction between the two kinds of “high places”; and Asa did not remove the high places where Jehovah was recognized, and he did remove the high places where idolatry was established. It is unaccountable that Professors, who have the least regard for their own reputation, can imagine a contradiction in such passages.
6. Prof. Preserved Smith brings forward a Biblical mistake as his own discovery, although it is old, and brings it forward confidently and frequently. David is represented as giving Araunah, or Oman, the Jebusite, a certain amount of money for a purchase. “So David bought the threshing floor and oxen for fifty shekels of silver,” 2 Sam. xxiv. 24. In another place it is written, “David said to Oman, Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord. . . . So David gave to Oman for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight,” 1 Chron. xxi. 22-25. The Professor imagines that fifty shekels of silver seemed too mean a sum in the eyes of ‘"the chronicler” for a prince like David to give, and hence he kindly lied, increasing the amount to six hundred shekels of gold.
Perhaps the Professor does not know that this was the spot where the temple was built. “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Oman the Jebusite,” 2 Chron. iii. 1. At all events, he tails to distinguish between the threshing floor, and the place of which David said, “I will verily buy it for the full price,” 1 Chron. xxi. 24. A man is riding through the country and sees a threshing machine in a field, which he fancies, and buys for fifty dollars in silver. He also wishes to purchase the entire field for some purpose, and pays for it six hundred dollars in gold. A child can see there is no contradiction.
7. The Higher Critics invent a contradiction in the number of David’s soldiers given in the same two chapters. “There were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men,” 2 Sam. xxiv. 9; “All they of Israel were a thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred three score and ten thousand men that drew sword,” 1 Chron. xxi. 5. In Samuel there were 800,000 valiant men that drew the sword, veterans as we say, proved soldiers, but in Chronicles nothing is said about “valiant men.” In Samuel the men of Judah were in all 500,000; in Chronicles there were 470,000 “that drew sword.” Instead of a contradiction, there is the most perfect accuracy.
8. An attempt has been made to find a contradiction between Stephen’s account of the number that accompanied Jacob when he left Canaan for Egypt, and the statement in Genesis. “Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, three score and fifteen souls,” Acts vii 14; “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were three score and six. And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were three score and ten,” Gen. xlvi. 26, 27. The number that came out of Jacob's loins, besides, excepting, his sons’ wives, we find to be 66, as in ver. 26. If to these we add Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s two sons, we have 70 as in ver. 27. If to the 66, we add the nine wives of Jacob’s sons, Judah and Simeon having lost their wives, as elsewhere recorded, we have 75 mentioned by Stephen.
9. The Higher Critics ridicule the story as unbelievable, which tells us that David was Saul’s harpist, and that afterwards the king inquired after his name, 1 Sam. xvi.-xvii. But the king did no such thing. When David killed Goliath, Saul said to Abner, “Whose son is this?. . . Inquire thou whose son the stripling is. . . And Saul said. to him, Whose son art thou, young man?” 1 Sam. xvii. 55—58. He did not ask about David, but David’s father. He had promised to enrich the man who slew the giant, to give him his daughter in marriage, and to “make his father’s house free in Israel.” It does not appear that Saul had ever seen David’s father; and when we remember that the harpist had quit the service of the king, and gone back to his sheep in the wilderness, that an evil spirit from the Lord troubled the unhappy monarch, it is likely enough in his periodical fits of madness, that he had forgotten the name of David’s father, if he had ever given it the slightest attention.
10. The Apostle Paul, referring to a plague that smote ancient Israel, says, “Neither let ns co mm it fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand, '’ 1 Cor. x. 8. Moses, recording the event, says, “Those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand,” Num. xxv. 9. The Higher Critics inform us that this shows “a slip of memory” on the part of the apostle, although a mere boy could have remembered such simple figures as twenty-four thousand. They do not see that Paul says, there fell in one day three and twenty thousand, and Moses tells us that those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. Suppose that two armies are about to engage in battle. They have a skirmish in which 1,000 are killed, and in the more serious encounter 28,000 fell in one day. Where is the contradiction?
11. The same learned gentlemen, alluding to numerous laws in the Pentateuch concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices, add, “Yet Jehovah Himself, speaking through His prophet Jeremiah, declares most emphatically that He never gave any directions whatever about burnt offerings and sacrifices, Jer. vii. 22.” He never made any such declaration. “I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices,” Jer. vii. 22. Look at the italicised words, and ask if such criticism is honest or respectable? God said nothing about burnt offerings and sacrifices in the day Me brought them out of the land of Egypt; but does it follow that He said nothing about them afterwards? This is the way real infidels in the guise of professing Christians gull so many shallow minds.
12. They also assure us that the regulation with regard to peace offerings required that “‘it shall be eaten on the same day ye: offer it, and on the morrow,’ Lev. xix. 5, 6. And in another passage in the same book, Lev. xxii. 80, we find this clear injunction regarding the very same peace offerings: ‘On the same day it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow; I am the Lord. What must be thought of the integrity of a man, who will make a statement like this? When we examine the last passage quoted, it does not even refer to peace offerings. “When ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will. On the same day it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: I am the Lord,” Lev. xxii. 29, 30. Peace offerings were one thing; a sacrifice of thanksgiving was quite another; but what shall we think of those who rely upon the ignorance of their readers, or upon the indolence of so many to investigate for themselves, in order to poison their minds against the truth of the Bible? May God forgive them, since He has mercy in store for the meanest of sinners.
Want of space forbids any further examination of the alleged errors of the Bible. Nor is it necessary to continue the review, for. the twelve already considered are a fair sample of the others, and are indeed most frequently urged as the best, or the worst, that can be advanced. It is amazing that men, who ought to possess the intelligence of the Higher Critics, should urge objections to the credibility of the Scriptures that are so trifling, and should allow themselves to heap together such worthless trash. Many of them are like ghouls that rob the dead, and the infidel dead as Voltaire and Tom Paine, to find tools with which to undermine the foundation of our faith and hope. They spend their time in trying to show that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, that Job was written in the captivity, that David did not write the Psalms attributed to him, that Solomon did not write Proverbs, nor Ecclesiastes, nor the Song of Songs, that Isaiah did not write Isaiah, that Daniel did not write Daniel, that Zechariah did not write Zechariah; but so far as known, they never speak of man’s sin, and need of redemption through the blood of Christ, nor of any comfort for the sad and fainting heart.
Prof. Briggs says, “But what do these errors amount to, after all? They are only in minor matters, in things which lie entirely beyond the range of faith and practice,” The Bible, the Church, And the Reason, p. 115. But why does he, and why do all other Higher Critics, seem so anxious to show these errors in “minor matters?” If there are errors at all, how does he know that they are only in “minor matters?” If God by His Spirit kept the sacred writers from errors in major matters, could He not have preserved them from errors in minor matters? How can the Professor say that these alleged errors are "in things which lie entirely beyond the range of faith and practice?” Surely the distinction between a truth and only a slight falsehood is a thing of faith and practice even in minor matters.
There is a Bible still in existence, once belonging to Washington’s mother, which records that he was born “ye 11th day of Feb. 173J-.” He was really born the 22d day of Feb. 1732, new style; but this would constitute in the judgment of Higher Criticism an unreconcilable discrepancy, if it did not prove that Washington was never bora at all. Dr. Moses Stuart confessed that when he was a young man he was sorely perplexed by the difficulties, that confronted him in the Bible; but that time, patience and the study of forty years had scattered them to the winds. It is certain that he who most thoroughly knows the Bible most thoroughly believes it, and that after carefully reading it scores of times, he will rise from the perusal with the conviction firmly established, that “God spake all these words.”