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the illustration of the sacred writings. He was a man of great sagacity and genius, who preferred the dictates of reason to the decisions of authority; notwithstanding all which, he cannot be recommended as a model to other commentators. The other Greek writers who attempted the explain the Holy Scriptures, did little more than compile and accumulate various passages from the commentators of the preceding ages; and this method was the origin of those catena, or chains of commentaries so much in vogue among the Greeks during this century, of which a considerable number have come down to our times, and which consisted entirely in a collection of the explications of Scripture that were scattered up and down in the ancient writers. The greatest part of the theological writers, finding themselves incapable of more arduous undertakings, confined their labours to this compiling method, to the great detriment of sacred criticism.
vil. The Latin commentators were vastly superior in number to those among the Greeks, which was owing to the zeal and munificence of Charle- Defects of the magne, who, both by his liberality and by his mentators. example, had excited and encouraged the doctors of the preceding age to the study of the Scriptures. Of these expositors there are two at least who are worthy of esteem. Christian Druthmar, whose Commentary on St. Matthew is come down to our times," and the abbot Bertharius, whose Two Books concerning fundamentals, are also said to be yet extant. The rest seem unequal to the important office of sacred critics, and may be divided into two classes, which we have already had occasion to mention in the course of this history; the class of those who merely collected and reduced into a mass the opinions and explications of the ancients, and that of a fantastic set of expositors; who were always hunting after mysteries in the plainest expressions, and labouring to deduce a variety of abstruse and hidden significations from every passage of Scripture, all which they did, for the most part, in a very,
clumsy and uncouth manner. At the head of the first class was Rabanus Maurus, who acknowledges that he borrowed
q See R. Simon, Histoire critique des principaux commentateurs de Nouv. Testament, chap. xxv, p. 448; as also his Critique de la Bibliotheque Ecclesiastique de M. Du Pin, tom. i. p. 293, who in his xxvith and xxviith chapters, gives an account of most of the writers mentioned here.
from the ancient doctors the materials he made use of in illustrating the Gospel of St. Matthew, and the Epistles of St. Paul; Walafrid Strabo, who borrowed his explications chiefly from Rabanus; Claudius of Turin, who trod in the footsteps of Augustin and Origen; Hincmar, whose Exposition of the four Books of Kings compiled from the fathers, are yet extant; Remigius of Auxerre, who derived from the same source his illustrations on the Psalms and other books of sacred writ; Sedulius, who explained in the same manner the Epistles of St. Paul; Florus, Haymo, bishop of Halberstadt, and others, whom, for the sake of brevity, we pass in silence. ix. Rabanus Maurus, whom we introduced above at the
head of the compilers of the fathers, deserves also
an eminent place among the allegorical commentators, on account of his diffuse and tedious work, entitled Scripture Allegories. To this class also belong Smaragdus, Haymo, Scotus, Pashasius Radbert, and many others, whom it is not necessary to mention. The fundamental and general principle, in which all the writers of this class agree, is, that beside the literal signification of each passage in Scripture, there are hidden and deep senses which escape the vulgar eye; but they are not agreed about the number of these mysterious significations. Some attribute to every phrase three senses; others four; others again five; nay, their number is carried to seven by Angelome, a monk of Lysieux, an acute, though fantastic writer, and who is far from deserving the meanest rank among the expositors of this century:' x. The teachers of theology were still more contempti
ble than the commentators, and the Greeks, as Tiedottees well as the Latins, were extremely negligent both
in unfolding the nature, and proving the truth of the doctrines of Christianity. Their method of inculcating divine truth was dry and unsatisfactory, and more adapted to fill the memory with sentences, than to enlighten the understanding, or to improve the judgment. The Greeks, for the most part, followed implicitly Damascenus, while the Latins submitted their hoodwinked intellects to the
r See the preface to his Commentary on the Book of Kings in the Bibliotheca Patrum Maxima, tom. xv. p. 303. The commentary of Angelome upon the book of Genesis, was published by Bernard Pezius in his Thesaurus Anecdotorum, tom. i. part i. but indeed the loss would not have been great had it never seen the light.
thority of Augustine. Authority became the test of truth, and supplied in arrogance what it wanted in argument. That magisterial decisions were employed in the place of reason, appears manifestly from the Collectaneum de tribus questionibus of Servatus Lupus; and also from a Treatise of Remigius, concerning the necessity of holding fast the truths of the gospel, and of maintaining inviolable the sacred authority of the holy and orthodox
fathers. If any deigned to appeal to the authority of the Scriptures in defence of their systems, they either explained them in an allegorical manner, or understood them in the sense that had been given to them by the decrees of councils, or in the writings of the fathers; from which senses they thought it both unlawful and impious to depart. The Irish doctors alone, and particularly Johannes Scotus, had the courage to spurn the ignominious fetters of authority, and to explain the sublime doctrines of Christianity in a manner conformable to the dictates of reason, and the principles of true philosophy. But this noble attempt drew upon them the malignant fury of a superstitious age, and exposed them to the hatred of the Latin theologists, who would not permit either reason or philosophy to meddle themselves in religious matters.
xi. The important science of morals suffered, like all others, in the hands of ignorant and unskilful writers. The labours of some were wholly employed in collecting from the fathers an indigested heap of maxims and sentences concerning religious and moral duties; and such, among others, was the work of Alvarus, entitled Scintillæ Patrum. Others wrote in a more systematic manner concerning virtue and vice, such as Halitgarius, Rabanus Maurus, and Jonas, bishop of Orleans ; but the representations they gave of the one and the other were very different from those which we find in the gospel of Christ. Others again fell into that most absurd and delusive method of instructing the ignorant in the will of God by a fantastic combination of figures and allegories; and several of the Greeks began to turn their studies toward the resolving cases of conscience,' in order to remove the
or Christian morality.
s For an account of the persecution and hatred that Johannes Scotus suffered in the cause of reason and liberty, see Da Boulay, Hist. Academ. Paris, tom. i. p. 182; as also Mabillon, Acta Sanctor. Ord. Bened. Sæc. v. p. 392.
t See Nicephori Chartophylac. Epistolæ Diæ, in the Bibliotheca Magna Patrum, tom. ül. p. 413. VOL. IL
difficulties that arose in scrupulous and timorous minds. pass in silence the writers of homilies and books of
penance, of which there were a considerable number in this century.
xi. "The doctrine of the mystics, whose origin is falsely The progress attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, and whose of mysticism. precepts were designed to elevate the soul above all sensible and terrestrial objects, and to unite it to the Deity in an ineffable manner, had been now for a long time in vogue among the Greeks, and more especially among the monastic orders. And to augment the credit of this fanatical sect, and multiply its followers, Michael Syncellus and Methodius composed the most pompous and eloquent panegyrics upon the memory of Dionysius, in which his virtues were celebrated with the utmost exaggeration. The Latins were not as yet bewitched with the specious appearance and the illusory charms of the mystic devotion, which was equally adapted to affect persons of a lively fancy, and those of a more gloomy turn of mind. They lived in a happy ignorance of this contagious doctrine, when the Grecian emperor Michael Balbus sent to Lewis the Meek, in the year 824, a copy of the pretended works" of Dionysius the Areopagite, which fatal present kindled immediately the holy flame of mysticism in the western provinces, and filled the Latins with the most enthusiastic admiration of this new religion. The translation of these spurious works into Latin by the express order of the emperor," who could not be easy while his subjects were deprived of such an inestimable treasure,contributed much to
u Usserii Sylloge Epp. Hibernicar. p. 54, 55. The spuriousness of these works is now universally granted by the most learned and impartial of the Roman catholu writers, as they contain accounts of many events that happened several ages after the time of Dionysius, and were not at all mentioned until after the fifth century. See Fleury, Hist. Eccles. livr. liv. tom. xi. p. 520, edit. Bruxelles.
w That these books were translated by the order of Lewis, appears manifestly from the epistle to that emperor, which Hilduin prefixed to his Areopagitica, and in which, p. 66, edit. Colon. 1563, we find the following passage :*" De notitia librorum, quos (Dionysius) patrio sermone conscripsit, et quibus petentibus illos composuit, lectio nobis per Dei gratiam et vestram ordinationem, cujus dispensatione interpretatos, scrinia nostra eos petentibus reserant, satisfacit.” From this passage it is crident that they are mistaken, who affirm that the Latin
translation of the works of Dionysius was not made before the time of Charles the Bald. And they err also, who, with Mabillon, Annal. Benedict. tom. ii. lib. xxix. $ 59, p. 488, and the authors of the Hist. Lit. de la France, fom. v. p. 425, inform us, that Michael Balbus sent these works already translated into Latin to the emperor Lewis. It is amazing how men of learning could fall into this latter error, aster reading the following passage in the epistle above quoted; “Authenticos namque eosdem (Dionysii) libros Græca lingua conscriptos, cum echonomus ecclesiæ Constantinopolitanæ et ceteri missi Michaelis legatione ; functi sunt ; pro munere magno suscepimus."
the progress of mysticism. By the order of tlie same emperor, Hilduin, abbot of St. Denys, composed an account of the life, actions, and writings of Dionysius, under the title of Areopagitica, in which work, among other impudent fictions, usual in those times of superstition and imposture, he maintained, in order to exalt' the honour of his nation, that Dionysius the Areopagite, and Dionysius the bishop of Paris, were one and the same person." This fable, which was invented with unparalleled assurance, was received with the most perfect and unthinking credulity, and made such a deep and permanent impression upon the minds of the French, that the repeated demonstrations of its falsehood have not as yet been sufficient to ruin its credit entirely. As the first translation of the works of Dionysius, that had been done by the order of Lewis the Meek, was probably in a barbarous and obscure style, a new and more elegant one was given by the famous Johannes Scotus Erigena, at the request of Charles the Bald, the publication of which increased considerably the partisans of the mystic theology among the French, Italians, and Germans. Scotus himself was so enchanted with this new doctrine, that he incorporated it into his philosophical system, and upon all occasions either accommodated his philosophy to it, or explained it according to the principles of his philosophy.
xi. The defence of Christianity against the Jews and pagans was greatly neglected in this century, in the state of which the intestine disputes and dissensions that polemic divided the church, gave sufficient employment to theology. such as had an inclination to controversy, or a talent of managing it with dexterity and knowledge. Agobard, however, as also Amulo and Rabanus Maurus, chastised the insolence and malignity of the Jews, and exposed their various absurdities and errors, while the emperor Leo, Theodorus Abucara, and other writers, whose
performances are lost, employed their polemic labours against the progress of the Saracens, and refuted their impious and extravagant system. But it may be observed, in general, of those who wrote against the Saracens, that they reported many things, both concerning Mahomet and his religion, which were far from being true; and if, as there is too much reason to imagine, they did this designedly, and
* Launoy, Di s. de Discrimine Dionysii Areopag. et Parisiensis, cap. iv. p. 38, tom. il. Di. opp, as also the writings of this great man concerning the Two Dionysiuses.