Persecuted for Mythicism
Here is yet another horror story about someone who questioned the literalness of various Bible stories. His name is Rev. Dr. Alexander Geddes
, a Roman Catholic priest who was commissioned to translate the Bible into English. He did not finish that task, and his "liberalism" in the part he did complete got him into hot water with the authorities. I suspect that his discussion of Origen and others' allegorical understanding of scripture
was a major part of this offensive liberalism.
In his translation of the Bible
, Geddes (viii) refers to the allegorical - i.e., mythical
- biblical interpretation by Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus of Alexander (20 BCE-50 AD/CE):
This allegorical mode of explaining the fall (and indeed the whole cosmogony) by the most ancient professed interpreter whose works have come down to us, appeared so ingenious and satisfactory to the more early Christian fathers, that, with some little variations, they generally adopted it. It was adopted, if we may credit Anastasius Sanita, by Papias, Pantaenus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria; and we are certain it was adopted and improved upon by Origen. From Origen, it was borrowed by the Gregories of Nyssa and Nazianzum; and among the Latins, by St. Ambrose. There were not, however, wanting writers who contended for a literal meaning, and who charged the Origenists with impiety and heresy: particularly, the credulous Epiphanius, and the acrimonious Jerom....
Geddes compounded this "error" by composing another text, Critical Remarks on the Hebrew Scriptures
, for which he lost his vocation.
He died without recanting, but received absolution at the hands of a French priest, though public mass for his soul was forbidden by the ecclesiastical powers.
Yet, Geddes was undefeated, as he left behind some very juicy quotes. It should be noted that he remained a devoted Christian, a sort of Catholic Unitarian, who wanted to strip away the unseemly Jewish and Pagan layers to find a pristine Jesus, whom we understand today to be a phantom. In any event, following are more of his great quotes, from both his Bible translation and his Critical Remarks
We have now got to the end of the mythos of Moses; or whoever else was the author of the wonderful production. I trust that I have done something like justice to its beauties; and that it will appear, on the whole, to be a well devised, well delineated, well executed piece: nay, that it has not equal in all the mythology of antiquity: I mean, if it be considered, not as a real history, nor as a mere mystical allegory; but, such as I have throughout exhibited it, a most charming political fiction, dressed up for excellent purposes in the garb of history, and adapted to the gross concepts and limited capacity of a rude, sensual and unlearned credulous people.
Guess where I'm using these quotes? Yep, Did Moses Exist?
On the whole then I think it may be laid down as an axiom that the bulk of Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, cannot be said to have a rational faith, because their motives of credibility are not rational motives but the positive assertions of an assumed authority, which they have never discussed, or durst not question: their religion is the fruit of unenlightened credulity. A very small number of curious and learned men only, have thoroughly examined the motives of their religious belief, in any communion: and it will be found, I presume, that the more curious and learned they were, the less they generally believed. Hence, perhaps, the old adage: Ignorance is the mother of devotion…
In the Hebrew scriptures are many beauties, many excellent precepts, much found morality: and they deserve the attentive perusal of every scholar, every person of curiosity and taste. All those good things I admit, and admire, and would equally admire them in the writings of Plato, Tully, or Marcus Antoninus: but there are other things in great abundance, which I can neither admire nor admit; without renouncing common sense, and superseding reason: a sacrifice which I am not disposed to make, for any writing in the world.
Critical Remarks, 1.v-vi
And another great one that I can really relate to!
Most of my censurers are anonymous scribblers, who insidiously aim their shafts at me from behind a bush; and on whom, were I even to detect them in their lurking-holes, I should hardly waste a penful of ink. Let them continue to throw their impotent darts, and scatter their innocent firebrands, as long as they please. I shall imitate an emperor, who, when he was told that the rabble had thrown dirt at his statue, rubbed his face, and said, "I feel it not." The teethless cur may bark, and bark; but cannot inflict a deadly bite...
Critical Remarks, 1.vii