Bishop Colenso Assailed: November 7, 1863

Bishop Colenso Assailed 

By Rev. H.M. Turner

Christian Recorder: November 1, 1863 

Turner continues his review of Bishop John Colenso's The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined

Mr. Editor:-When incontestable evidences are brought forth to substantiate any declaration, whatever be its apparent improbabilities, arising as they often do, from a more cursory examination of the surrounding details, our most rigid prejudices should be silent.

Now if Bishop Colenso, with all his pre-eminent endowments, which has led to the solving of such a masterly problem as will according to his theory, put to flight all the combined forces of prophets, apostles, fathers, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself, should discover his mistake, then he should, as an honest reformer, concede to the truthfulness of what he has declaratively denounced as an imposition upon the heart and conscience of all who have, from a principle of pure intentions, adhered to the Mosaic record.

The Bible is a book differing from all others for its consecutive consentaneousness, for there is nothing in it self-contradictory; but like a chain it is concatenately linked from Genesis to Revelation. Theological differences may arise from a contrariety of opinion, which may be magnified into such a heterogeneous contraventionality, that a natural disordancy may seem to pervade the arena of inspiration itself. Men may preach and write quite differently, yet be conscientious in their assumptions. But our minor differences, in no respect, impeach the plan of divine procedure. Common sense, much less reason, could never impose inconsistency upon the God of heaven. Admit that, and you dethrone Jehovah by destroying one of his most essential attributes. But his immutability is acknowledged by pagans and the semi-civilized, and has been in all ages. And for Christians to detract from his holy majesty by such a sacrilegious skepticism in this enlightened day, would be an ungodly presumption, from which there could be no acquittal, either in this world or the world to come. Then how satisfactory it should be to every individual, however crude his ideas and limited his understanding, that the same Almighty Being, who whispered his will in the ears of the patriarchs, should, after vast centuries, proclaim it upon the sacred brow of Olivet with a divine astuteness, enchantingly characteristic of a God, with whom there is no variableness. Every text in the Bible is a rebounding echo to some other, whatever be its anteriority or future disclosure. The sacred Scripture reverberates, resounds, and attests its own veracity in all its various parts. Grecian prose, with all its peculiar nicety, differs not with Hebrew idioms, when each becomes the conveyance of the pledges of heaven. God in the raging flames of burning Sinai, only softens his more terrific manifestation, when his mild voice quickens the four days’ dead carcass of Lazarus. The bellowing thunders of the desert vie not with the sweet melody uttered in calming the tempestuous lake of Gennesareth. Thus God is the same under every dispensation, and his word in both the Old and New Testament bears his image.

Taking the preceding argument as fundamentally attested, we proceed to examine the evidence which, beyond all defalcation, proves the authenticity and genuineness of the Pentateuch, or else ways goes the entire Bible and all its attendant instructions, and blessed precepts, which has solaced and cheered the Christian world for the last eighteen hundred years, admitting that to be the sealing of prophecy.

Every book in the Old Testament implies the previous existence of the Pentateuch,-most of them expressly mention it,-allusion is made to it by some, and it is quoted by others. These books also contains series of external evidence in its favor, which is irrefutable, and when these argumentative links are united, they constitute a chain which no ordinary ability can sever. Bishop Colenso endeavors to do so notwithstanding. What sane person will deny that the Pentateuch existed in the days of Christ and his Apostles? For they not only mention it, but quote it. Matt. V.27. Christ is referring to it, says: “Ye have heard it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery,” &e. In Mark x.:3 it is written” “And he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?” Mark xxi. :26, “And as touching the dead, that they rise, have ye not read in the book of Moses how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?” I wonder how the Bishop would get around these texts.

Luke xxiv: 41, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me.”

John vii: 19, “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?”

John vii: 5, “Now, Moses in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

Acts xxviii: 23, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging: to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”

I Cor. ix: 9, “For it is written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.”

2 Cor. iii: 15, “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.”

Thus the bishop and any other persons, whether their minds are biased or not, can clearly perceive that with the Pentateuch the whole Bible stands or falls. There is an inseparable connexion, which would most hazardously peril the scheme of redemption, if the Pentateuch is faulted.

Some have taken the ground that, notwithstanding this correspondence, it is impossible to conclude that Moses authored it, for there is reason to believe that it was composed by Ezra. But unhappily for them, Ezra himself is evidence against them, for instead of assuming the honor so liberally confer upon him, he passively ascribes the book of the law to Moses.

Ezra vi: 18, “And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.” Again,

Ezra iii, 2, “Then stood up Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and his brethren, the priests, and Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the Law of Moses, the man of God.”

Besides, the Pentateuch existed before the days of Ezra, for it is expressly mentioned during the days of the captivity in Babylon, of the Prophet Daniel. He says, ix: 11, “Therefore, the curse is poured out upon us, and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, because we have sinned against him:” and in verse 13, we read thus, “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this evil has come upon us, &e.” This was before Christ 540 years, whereas Ezra did not live for some time afterward. Again, long before that event, it was extant in the time of Isaiah, 2 Chron. xxx: 15, 625 years before Christ. And it was of such acknowledged authority, that the perusal of it occasioned an immediate reformation of the religious usages, which had not been observed according to the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book: 2 Chron. xxxiv: 21. It was also extant in the time of Hosea, king of Israel, near 700 years before Christ, for an Israelitish priest was sent from Babylon to instruct the new colonist of Samaria in the religion the Pentateuch teaches: 2 Kings, xviii: 27. Furthermore, the Samaritans received the book of the law as genuine, and they preserved and handed it down to their posterity, as it also was by the Jews, as the basis of the civil and religious institutions of both nations.

Prof. Sleigh says, “The Pentateuch was extant in the time of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, before Christ 912 years, (2 Chron. xvii: 9) who employed public instructors for its promulgation, and since it was received as the book of the law, both by the ten tribes, and also by the two tribes, (Jews and Samaritans,) it follows, as a necessary consequence, that each received it before they became divided into two kingdoms, i.e. nearly a thousand years before Christ.”

Now, the whole Jewish history, from the time of their settlement in Canaan, to the building of the temple in Jerusalem, presupposes that the book of the law was written by Moses; the whole of the temple service and worship were regulated by Solomon 1004 years before Christ, for the law embodied in the Pentateuch as the tabernacle service and worship had previously been by David, before Christ one thousand and forty-two years. Moreover, that the Pentateuch was in existence in David’s time, is evident from the very numerous allusions made in his Psalms to its contents. We then come to Samuel, who judged Israel from 1100-1061 years before Christ. He could not have composed it, for he could not have acquired the knowledge of Egypt which the Pentateuch implies.

Also, we find in the book of Joshua frequent references made to the book of the law. Josh. I: 7, “Only be strong, and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law which Moses, my servant, commanded thee, turn not from it to the right hand nor the left, &e.” Here is a positive recognition: Josh. xxiii: 6, “Be strong and courageous to keep and do all that is written in the book of the Law of Moses, &e.” Again, in viii: 31, “As it is written in the book of the law of Moses &e.” I would think it very improbable that Joshua would refer to a record that had no existence. We have evidently shown that Joshua did refer to the Pentateuch, and this reference was made as high as 1450 years before Christ. Can any man resist this evidence?

If the bishop has ears let him hear. Connected with the foregoing arguments, these books are highly substantiated by the undisputed testimony of most distinguished Pagan writers, some of who date far in the dreary shades of antiquity.

The moral system so philosophically constructed by Confucius, the demigod of China, were nothing more than elementary ethics, drawn from the Pentateuch and succeeding writers of inspiration.

Why did not bishop Colenso come out openly, and proclaim the Bible a myth, a book of fables, a novel, a nuisance, and through the same course of reasoning, why did he not say no God, no heaven, no hell, no hereafter, &e.? For his premises will, unquestionably, bear those conclusions: but if he is a wise man he may yet be saved. I mean wise to receive truth unbiased.

O Bible, book of God, stand firm. Enemies may assault you, foes may attack you, friends may desert you. But the same Almighty hand that hath preserved you for ages, will guide you through tempest, and through the storm, till the last sinner of earth shall ground his weapon to fight against your unadulterated precepts, no more forever. Let thy truth howl in the winds, mutter in the thunder, and wring its sweet melodies in music, till knowledge shall cover the earth as the waters do the great deep.

*(To Be Continued)

*There is no evidence that Turner continued this essay