View Full Version : Simon Greenleaf, Testimony of the Evangelists

02-14-2008, 06:08 PM
I have to admit that legal concepts based in Latin simply fascinate me, the idea that a 2,000 yr old language can still be relevant in today's US is amazing.

That being said, when Legal Scholar Simon Greenleaf, the contemporary of Blackistone who wrote "Commentaries on Common Law" wrote his own Treatsie "On Evidence" his knowledge and style of writing caught my attention.

When he then turned that discerning mind to Evidence as found in the Bible, I took fast notice, Greenleaf's "Testimony of the Evangelists" should be considered one of the pillar of post Modernity Christianity, Especially when the old saw of Church as political paradigm has fallen out of favor.

Greeenleaf, while much older then Modernist Christian Authors such as Lewis, Tolkien, even Carol Wosticew, known as Pope John Paul II, his role is nonetheless as important (perhaps more so) then such literary giants as those listed.

For such a highly litigious society as America has become, the former Atheist Greenleaf's short opinion perhaps should be viewed as "Judge Judy for the masses".

Here is the first installment on Greenleaf's erudite treatsie:

In examining the evidence of the Christian religion, it is essential to the discovery of truth that we bring to the investigation a mind freed, as far as possible, from existing prejudice, and open to conviction. There should be a readiness, on our part, to investigate with candor to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, and to submit, without reserve or objection, to all the teachings of this religion, if it be found to be of divine origin. "There is no other entrance," says Lord Bacon, "to the kingdom of man, which is founded in the sciences, than to the kingdom of heaven, into which no one can enter but in the character of a little child." The docility which true philosophy requires of her disciples is not a spirit of servility, or the surrender of the reason and judgment to whatsoever the teacher may inculcate; but it is a mind free from all pride of opinion, not hostile to the truth sought for, willing to pursue the inquiry, and impartiality to weigh the arguments and evidence, and to acquiesce in the judgment of right reason. The investigation, moreover, should be pursued with the serious earnestness which becomes the greatness of the subject--a subject fraught with such momentous consequences to man. It should be pursued as in the presence of God, and under the solemn sanctions created by a lively sense of his omniscience, and of our accountability to him for the right use of the faculties which he has bestowed.

As a poor commentary, Greenleaf clearly writes his opening statement as a call not to subjegation of intellect, rather as a foundation of clear choice of inquisition.

02-14-2008, 08:20 PM
In requiring this candor and simplicity of mind in those who would investigate the truth of our religion, Christianity demands nothing more than is readily conceded to every branch of human science. All these have their data, and their axioms; and Christianity, too, has her first principles, the admission of which is essential to any real progress in knowledge. "Christianity," says Bishop Wilson, "inscribes on the portal of her dominion 'Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in nowise enter therein.' Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidence to the daring and profane, to vanquish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man's responsibility. All that Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer."

If one were to enter into the study of any discipline, then knowledge of the concepts contained therein would include everything from Mathematics to to Vocabulary, to even Physics applied, all of these require a mindset before engaging in the study of, yet that mindset as suggested beforehand, requires the mindset of simple unbiased observation in the examination of the Claims surrounding Christ.

Let us proceed forward then, with an unprejuidiced mind, and merely examine the facts, as presented.

Da 'Fins
02-22-2008, 12:56 PM
I like Greenleaf's work very much; read his treatise as a college student.

Of course, it needs support these days with respect to the historical reliability of NT documents, particularly the gospels.

A great book you may find useful in conjunction with this is Craig Blomberg's, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.

Very scholarly, balanced treatment and musters significant evidence for their reliability as historical documents.