THE IRISH ECCLESIASTICAL RECORD
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE BIBLE.
THE SEE OF DOWN AND CONNOR.
DR. COLENSO AND THE OLD TESTAMENT.
NOTICES OF BOOKS.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE BIBLE.
There are few so foolish as to close their eyes against the brilliant rays of the mid-day sun, and, at the same time, to assert deliberately that the sun is not yet risen, and that the world is still enveloped in darkness.
Nevertheless, something like this has been done quite recently by an estimable Protestant nobleman, who has assured his Irish fellow-countrymen that the Catholic Church, before the Reformation, "neither furthered the interests of science nor disseminated the knowledge of God's written word". 1 There was a time, indeed, when such a calumny would have been received by the British public with applause, and when it would have been echoed from Protestant pulpits by the predecessors of Colenso, and by the ancestors of many who now hold a place in the councils of her Majesty. But that calumny has been long since abandoned, even by the enemies of our holy faith. Our assailants have laid aside the mask, and revealed to the world the important fact, that whilst they clamoured for the Bible, they were themselves its true enemies; and that, combating the Church, their secret aim was to sap the foundations of inspired truth, and thus undermine the very citadel which they pretended to defend. It is not in England alone, but in France and Italy, and throughout the whole continent, that this striking fact is seen. Everywhere society presents the singular phenomenon of a sifting of its elements; and whilst all that aspires to the supernatural life, or clings to revelation, virtue, or truth, is gathered into the bosom of our holy Church, all that is without the Catholic pale is hurried down the inclined plane of Protestantism, and cast into the abyss of infidelity and rationalism. And yet, in the face of this social miracle, a Protestant peer is bold enough to assert that the Catholic Church is opposed to the progress of science and inspired truth;—thus insulting the memory of his own illustrious forefathers, and outraging the feelings of his fellow-countrymen. It is not, however, as a matter of controversy that we wish to enter on the present inquiry: we wish to view it merely as a matter of pure historic truth. In a future number we hope to consider the relations of the Church to science; our remarks to-day will only regard her solicitude during the ante-Reformation period to diffuse among her children a salutary knowledge of inspired truth as contained in the Holy Scriptures.
1. The first question that naturally suggests itself is, did the Church seek to remove the sacred volume from the hands of her own ministers, that is, of those whom she destined to teach her faithful children, and to gather all nations into her hallowed fold? The whole daily life of these sacred ministers of itself responds to such a question. Ask their diurnal hours, or any page of the daily Liturgy of the Church; ask those beautiful homilies which were delivered day by day in the abbeys of Bangor, Westminster, or Certosa, all of which breathe the sweet language of the inspired text; ask the myriad children of St. Columban, who in uninterrupted succession, hour by hour, chanted the praises of God in the accents of holy writ; ask the countless sanctuaries which decked the hills and valleys not only of our own island, but of every land on which the light of Christian faith had shone—the peaceful abodes of those who renounced the world's smiles and vanities to devote themselves to the service of God, and whose every orison recalled the teaching and the words of inspired truth. Ask even the medieval hymns published by the present Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, which, though shorn by the editor of much of their Catholic beauty, yet bear in each remaining strophe a deep impress of the language and imagery of the Bible, and prove to conviction that, so devoted was the Church of the ante-Reformation period to the study of the inspired text, that the very thoughts of her clergy, their language, their daily life, seemed to be cast in its sacred mould.
2. About 1450, long before Lutheranism was thought of, the art of printing appeared in Europe. Now some of the first efforts, as well of the wooden types of Gutenberg, as of the more perfect models of Faust and Schoeffer, were directed to disseminate accurate editions of the Bible: "No book", says one of the leading Rationalists of Germany, "was so frequently published, immediately after the first invention of printing, as the Latin Bible, more than one hundred editions of it being struck off before the year 1520". 2 And yet the number of editions thus commemorated is far below the reality. Hain, in his late Repertorium Bibliographicum, printed at Tubingen, reckons consecutively ninety-eight distinct editions before the year 1500, independently of twelve other editions, which, together with the Latin text, presented the glossa ordinaria or the postillas of Lyranus. Catholic Venice was distinguished above all the other cities of Europe for the zeal with which it laboured in thus disseminating the sacred text. From the year 1475, when the first Venetian edition appeared, to the close of the century, that city yielded no fewer than twenty-two complete editions of the Latin Bible, besides some others with the notes of Lyranus. Many other cities of Italy were alike remarkable for their earnestness in the same good cause, and we find especially commemorated the editions of Rome, Piacenza, Naples, Vicenza, and Brescia.
3. Italy, however, was not only remarkable for the number of its editions; it deserves still greater praise for the solicitude with which it compared the existing text with that of the ancient manuscripts, and endeavoured to present to the public editions as accurate as the then known critical apparatus would allow. One or two editions deserve particular notice, and in our remarks we will take the learned Vercellone for our guide, in his Dissertazioni Accademiche (Roma, 1864, pag. 102, seq. 9).
The most famous edition of the fifteenth century was that of Rome in 1471. It was published under the guidance of