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What Scaliger Says About The Epistle To Jude
by [?]

What then?–‘What then?’ retorts the angry reader after all this, ‘why then, perhaps, there may be a screw loose in the Bible.’ True, there may, and what is more, some very great scholars take upon them to assert that there is. Yet, still, what then? The two possible errors open to the Fathers of our canon, to the men upon whom rested the weighty task of saying to all mankind what should be Bible, and what should be not Bible, of making and limiting that mighty world, are–that they may have done that which they ought not to have done, and, secondly, left undone that which they ought to have done. They may have admitted writers whom they ought to have excluded; and they may have excluded writers whom they ought to have admitted. This is the extent of their possible offences, and they are supposed by some critics to have committed both. But suppose that they have, still I say–what then? What is the nature of the wrong done to us by the worst mistake ascribed to them? Let us consider. It is supposed by some scholars that we have in the New Testament as it now stands a work written by Apollos, viz., the Epistle to the Romans. Yet, if so, the error amounts only to a misnomer. On the other hand, there are Epistles on which has been charged the same error in relation to the name of the author, and the more important error of thoughts unbecoming to a Christian in authority: for instance, the Epistle of St. James. This charge was chiefly urged by a very intemperate man, and in a very intemperate style. I notice it as being a case which Phil. has noticed. But Phil. merits a gentle rap on his knuckles for the inconsideration with which he has cited a charge made and reported with so much levity. He quotes it from the ‘Scaligerana.’ Now, what right upon such a subject has any man to quote such an authority? The reasons against listening with much attention to the ‘Scaligerana’ are these:

First, the Scaligers, both father and son, were the two most impudent men that ever walked the planet. I should be loath to say so ill-natured a thing as that their impudence was equal to their learning, because that forces every man to say, ‘Ah, then, what impudent fellows they must have been!’ It is kinder and juster to say that their learning was at least equal to their impudence, for that will force every man to exclaim, ‘Ah, if so, what prodigies of learning they must have been!’ Yes, they were–absolute monsters of learning, learned monsters. But as much learning often makes men mad, still more frequently it makes them furious for assault and battery; to use the American phrase, they grow ‘wolfy about the shoulders,’ from a periodical itchiness for fighting. Other men being shy of attacking the Scaligers, it was no fault of theirs, you know, but a necessity, to attack other men–unless you expected them to have no fighting at all. It was always a reason with them for trying a fall with a writer, if they doubted much whether they had any excuse for hanging a quarrel on.

Secondly, all ana whatever are bad authorities. Supposing the thing really said, we are to remember the huge privilege of conversation, how immeasurable is that! You yourself, reader, I presume, when talking, will say more in an hour than you will stand to in a month. I’m sure I do. When the reins are put into my hands I stick at nothing–headlong I drive like a lunatic, until the very room in which we are talking, with all that it inherits, seems to spin round with absolute vertigo at the extravagances I utter.

Thirdly, but again, was the thing really said? For, as another censure upon the whole library of ana, I can assert–that, if the license of conversation is enormous, to that people who inhale that gas of colloquial fermentation seldom mean much above one part in sixty of what they say, on the other hand the license of reporters is far greater. To forget the circumstances under which a thing was said is to alter the thing, to have lost the context, the particular remark in which your own originated, the mitigations of a harsh sentiment from playfulness of manner; in short, to drop the setting of the thoughts is oftentimes to falsify the tendency and value of those thoughts.

NOTE BY THE EDITOR.–The Phil. here referred to is the Philoleutheros Anglicanus of the essay on ‘Protestantism,’ as shortened by De Quincey, and with whom De Quincey, in that essay, deals very effectively and wittily on occasion.