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HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY,
FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST TO THE ABOLITION OF
PAGANISM IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
BY HENRY HART MILMAN, D.D.,
DEAN OF ST. PAUL's.
IN THREE VOLUMES.- VOL. I.
A NEW AND REVISED EDITION.
The Right of Translation is reserved.
This new edition of the History of Christianity has been revised throughout. A few passages have been added, chiefly in the notes ; a few slightly enlarged. In general, I have not found much, after a period of above twenty years, which I should wish to retract or to modify.
Some objection was raised on the first publication of the work against the commencement of the History of Christianity with the Life of Christ.
I thought then, and still think, that life to be an integral and inseparable part of the History. It appeared to me necessary to the completeness of the history to trace it to its primal origin; to show that the Gospels, our only documentary anthorities, offer a clear and distinct relation of that life, with no greater variation than might reasonably be expected from four separate and independent narratives, drawn up by different writers, at different times and places, and by one at least from a different point of view; that this relation accords in every respect with all that we know of the events, circumstances, manners, usages, opinions of the age and country ; that its religious signification, and, in part, supernatural character, in no way conflict, but are rather in full and perfect harmony, with its simple truth and reality.
At all events, the reverence which had enshrined and set apart the life of Jesus in a kind of unapproachable sanctity had been then (and has since been) so
ruthlessly invaded, as to force, as it were, others on that holy ground. In truth, advantage has been taken of that very secluding reverence to dismiss the whole Life of Christ from the domain of history; to make that reverence the source and parent of the whole, either supposing the religion, even Jesus himself, to be no more than the spontaneous growth of the opinions, thoughts, passions, ideal aspirations of the time; or a pure myth, the creation of the excited imagination of the believers ; humanity, as it were, self superhumanised and deified ; not what St. Paul asserts, “God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.”
At the time of the publication of the History of Christianity these views had culminated in the famous work of Strauss,—a work, it must be acknowledged, of vast learning and unparalleled ingenuity. To the theory of Strauss, as far as I could understand it (for Strauss himself, as if appalled by his own conclusions, varied much in the successive editions of his book as to the result of his inquiries), I ventured to raise some objections, which seemed to me and to some others of weight and importance. I leave them as they stood.
Another work has now appeared, since the present edition was printed off, more brilliant and popular, in a language of universal currency, and in a style in which that language displays itself in all its captivating force, life, and distinctness. Yet I cannot but think this very perfection of style in some degree fatal to its pretensions. There are passages in which the vivid transparency betrays at once the perplexity of the writer and the inconceivable feebleness of his argu
ments. I cannot apprehend more lasting effect from
. the light, quick, and bright-flashing artillery of the Frenchman than from the more ponderous, and steadilyaimed culverins of the German. In one respect I had expected more from the wide and copious erudition of M. Renan. But I find no illustration, no allusion from the Jewish writers which was not familiar to me from Lightfoot, Schoetgen, Meuschen, and the great Talmudic scholars of the two last centuries.
I suspect that they have exhausted the subject. As little new can be found or could be expected from the scenery and topography of Palestine, in like manner drained to the utmost by so many travellers before M. Renan. Even as to the style—may an Englishman venture to contrast it (by no means in its favour) not only with the dignity and solemnity of Pascal, but with the passionate earnestness of Rousseau: its “thin sentimentality” (this is not my own expression) reminds me more of Paul et Virginie’ than, I will not say of the ‘Pensées,” but even of the · Vicaire Savoyard.' I cannot think that eventually the book will add to the high fame of M. Renan. To those who see in Christianity no more than a social revolution, a natural step in human progress, the beautiful passages on the transcendant humanity of Jesus (unhappily, not unleavened) may give satisfaction and delight; to those to whom Christianity is a religion, Jesus the author and giver of eternal life, it will fall dead, or be a grief and an offence.
As to the apostolic and immediate post-apostolic times, I have not neglected or closed my eyes against the labours of what are called the Tübingen School. I trust that it is from no blind, stubborn, or