« AnkstesnisTęsti »
INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL CHRISTIAN
AN ADDRESS BY PROF. DR. ADOLF HARNACK. *
"International and National Christian Literature"-what theme could be more suitable to such an occasion as this? For we are summoned by the circumstances of this gathering to reflect upon our common possession, its extent, and how it has come into being. It is self-evident that, speaking in this festal hour, and speaking as a theologian, I shall be obliged to restrict my enquiry to our common Christian possession. We recognize that this does not consist in our institutions, organizations, laws and customs, and you have just heard' that the constitution of our Churches presents so many peculiar features that a foreigner can only after a long time familiarize himself with it. On the other hand, it may with equal emphasis be asserted that a long time is needed on our part so to understand the English Established Church and the various denominations as directly to appreciate the common spirit.
We have in common not only institutions, but also an acquired spiritual wealth. The first element of this wealth is, of course, represented by the Bible and our common work upon the Bible. I need not discuss this at length, and therefore will only say that
This speech, delivered (without notes) at the reception of representatives of British Churches in the Aula of the Berlin University on Tuesday morning, June 15th, 1909, has been translated by the Rev. J. H. Rushbrooke, M.A., from a stenographed German report, which however Dr. Harnack has not been able to revise. That the report is substantially accurate, the Editor of the "Contemporary Review" and the Translator, both of whom were in the audience, are able to assure the reader.
1 In a preceding address by Prof. Dr. Kahl, Rector of the University.
Geistig is throughout rendered "spiritual," but the English word must be understood in the broad sense of the German. The compound "spiritual-intellectual" would approximately express the meaning.
those men who, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, created the Old Testament, and afterwards the New, have not only opened for all ages the deep springs of edification, but they have also laid a fundamentum aere perennius for our spiritual fellowship; and that so long as there are readers and students of the Bible they will be so strongly and intimately bound to one another that no earthly power may rend them asunder. That is the significance of the international literature as it is represented in the Bible.
Nevertheless, accepting all that has to be said concerning the Bible-its great, glorious and, indeed, inexpressible qualities-it is a book of the past. interpreted in various ways, and to some extent removed from us by the influence of a complex tradition. A fellowship in spiritual life must always rest on the indispensable basis of a present common literature. Moreover, not only must the living literature, the literature of the present, be common, but there must also persist from every epoch of a common historical experience one or more monuments, which are yours as well as ours, and which you reverence in common with us, if a firm spiritual unity, having its basis in literature, is really to endure between our peoples.
What, then, are the facts? What does Christendom possess, what is your possession and ours, in the form of international Christian literature? And if we have such a possession, how have we attained it, and how may we foster and develop it?
Of course, every nation has a right to seek for edification in its own way, and to create its theological literature
in accordance with its own needs, and it may be that the deepest things of the inner life can be expressed only in idiomatic and domestic forms, difficult of assimilation by men of another race. Yet, on the other hand, religious literature characterized by a certain elevation is always timeless. As the Psalms are timeless, and many passages in the Gospels and the New Testament-for the sake of brevity I refer only to the eighth chapter of Romans and the thirteenth of First Corinthians-it must still be possible to-day, and must have been possible in every generation, to express these things with a timeless power and warmth.
What, then, I ask, are the facts? What do we possess in common? As a matter of course, the enquiry raises at once the double issue: What have we in common as a literature of edification, and what in the realm of theology? I invite you to a brief excursion through ecclesiastical history. You need have no anxiety that it will prove too long; it will be but a rapid automobile journey, but we may observe a few facts en route.
As our starting-point let us select the Commencement of the third century of our era. Ignoring the unimportant and ignoring mere beginnings, Christianity then possessed only one language in which she uttered herself, the Greek; and she formed from Lyons to Alexandria, and from Carthage to Edessa, a single spiritual unity. As her devotional literature is one, the works originating in the second century have spread everywhere with astonishing swiftness; a book written in Sardis or Pergamum in Asia Minor is within a few years to be read in Alexandria, Rome, Carthage and Lyons. The Christianity of the commencement of the third century had an essential unity of language, and, thanks to the magnificent means of communication throughout the Roman Empire, an essential
unity of literature. The conditions of that period have never since obtained, nor could they again arise. Moreover, devotional and scientific literature coincided; no division had yet been made.
Now let us consider ourselves as having passed on to the close of the fourth century. We have no longer merely a Greek Christianity, but from the point of view of language we have two great Christianities, the Greek and the Latin-the Syriac might be added, as lying on the border-line between the great and the lesser. About this time we have also to reckon in Christian literature with the Armenian and the Coptic, and there are already found the beginnings of the German-Gothic; so that on linguistic grounds there must be enumerated three great and three lesser ecclesiastical regions. How were these able to arrive at a common understanding? The period displays an extraordinary industry applied to translation from the Greek into all other national languages spoken by Christians; if one recounts what was generally known throughout the three chief areas of the Church's activity, the Greek, the Latin, and the Syriac, about the year 400, through translation from the Greek, the sum-total is surprisingly large. Alongside the Old and New Testaments, which are translated into these languages, there is found a fine series of Christian letters, such as Clement's Epistle, the Epistle of Ignatius, the Epistle of Polycarp; a common liturgy has been sketched in its fundamental characteristics; the decisions of synods held in Syria or Asia Minor are forthwith issued in far-off districts; a great number of so-called apocryphal histories of apostles are common; the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, in all probability of Irenæus, considerable extracts from Origen, legends of martyrs, and calendars of saints are common. The churches of the newer languages manifested about
A.D. 400 an intense eagerness to introduce into their own areas as much as possible of the Greek Christian literature; and, when men of moderate attainments tired of the work, there were found at the close of the epoch (during which the separation had become accentuated) such men as Hilary, Ambrose, Rufinius, Jerome and Augustine, who, from the rich treasures of Greek Christian philosophy, exegesis and dogmatics, poured their translations as it were by cartloads into the lap of the Latin Church. In considering how matters then stood in regard to the unity of the world of ideas, we find entirely independent forms of thought distinctive of the Greek and Latin spirit; yet on the whole, and despite the opposition of East and West, already conspicuous in the profane history of the age, the ties of community in experiences, judgments, and feelings remained extraordinarily far-reaching.
With the fifth and sixth centuries these ties are rent asunder, and for a double reason. In the first place, the Greeks have never been able to learn anything from the Latins, and therefore the Greeks have been involved in such ruin as has overtaken them in relation to the progress of their spiritual life; they were always too conceited to learn from the Latins, and until the time of Augustine they had not much to learn from them. But in Augustine appeared the man whosince the Greeks did not translate him -imparted to their entire development a separate direction; for it is the loss of losses in the story of the Christian Church that Augustine, and the fruitful thoughts flowing from him, have left unaffected the whole of the Eastern Church. In that fact, above all others, lies the breach between the Orient and the Occident. For we Westerns-whether we be Roman Catholic or Protestant of any denomination-continue to think the thoughts
of Augustine in spite of the modern world, and, indeed, to speak with his words. The ascetic literature of every nation furnishes the proof. Select a hymn-book or a devotional work, be it Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinistic, or aught else denominationally, and if it contains three hundred pages, assuredly two hundred are transcribed from the thoughts of Augustine.
From the point at which Greek Christendom separates itself from Western until the present day, we find no more an international spiritual unity of the entire Christian Church, notwithstanding the work of individuals moving from one church to another. In that age was granted to the Church a man who, through the power of his thought, the depth of his religious experience, through his receptiveness and his ability to utter that which he had received, has gathered the whole of the West within his gentle grasp, and holds it until this day.
The second factor accounting for the separation within Christendom at this period was the circumstance that the Greeks did not succeed-for what reasons we may here leave aside-in establishing their language as the religious and ecclesiastical speech of the entire Orient. You are aware that from the fifth century the communities of the Orient parted asunder into communities of Greek, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, and then, above all, of Slavonic, Christians. What was unattained by Greek Christianity the Roman bishop was able to achieve; he maintained the Latin language as that of religion, and even, when necessary, enforced it. Thereby he secured a result of great advantage, since the Latin language was never enforced in private intercourse, but the popular speech was of set purpose left alongside it, so that a spiritual unity came into being in Western Christendom in spite of the persistence of national dialects. A
man who had studied Christianity, or was beginning to study it, might find himself in Oxford or Palermo, in Paris or Bologna, in Cologne or Naples, he was intelligible everywhere; he could to-day be transferred from any one of these cities and to-morrow take up work in another, as easily as if he were remaining in his fatherland and in the circle of his friends.
How came it to pass that a scientific theology, treating of the religious experience and outlook, was shaped in those days, a theology which, by all who are not enslaved to prejudice, can only be gazed on with astonishment and admiration; how came into existence this spiritual unity, which only sheer folly could depreciate? I have named the two chief influences, the Roman bishops and Augustine. But there succeeded immediately the period of triumphant barbarism; in the sixth and seventh centuries all civilization sank into decay; how is it that Augustine has survived? If the question is raised as to who-leaving aside the ecclesiastical institutions-created the spiritual unity of the Middle Ages, to whom is the chief credit due, I answer without hesitation: England. The great triple constellation, Bede, Boniface and Alcuin, represents the concrete effective theology and the religious culture of the time. Rome in the seventh century was not in a position directly to offer the gifts of civilization and theological culture to the peoples whom she influenced; but in the Green Island and in Great Britain after the coming of Augustine of Canterbury, work was carried on with such devotion that already about the year 700 the metropolis of theological science and antiquarian knowledge, so far as such then existed, was in Great Britain. Thence Charlemagne was supported by Alcuin and others; they created the college at Tours; they revived Augustine; and their effective
ness endures to the present day, for it may be said that the letters which we now write and print are those which, after the barbarism of the Merovingian period, were fashioned in the school of Alcuin according to the best examples of antiquity. We write to-day in Alcuin's characters. To Englishmen who came to the Continent is due what the Middle Ages possessed of science, intellectual vigor, and alertness.
This unity remained an effective force until the thirteenth century. Distinctive qualities—ignoring quite isolated exceptions-asserted themselves only within the limits of this general conception; although individualism in abundance was found, there appeared no individuality in which this LatinRoman spirit was not manifest, and which did not strike root and bear fruit in this soil.
But everything has its own time. The separate nations arose, attaining their maturity through the Roman Church and mediæval science, but also as a matter of course through the native energy rooted in themselves; and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries beheld the first serious, and henceforth unsleeping, opposition between the internationality of the Church and nationality. The internationality of the Roman Church called forth successive national counter-movements in Christendom, science and art, in the effort to preserve life in its own distinctive forms. The various peoples had little or no correspondence with neighboring States; although at certain periods there are found vital reciprocal relations between France and England, it remains true that in general each people carried on its battle for itself. There is really only one statesman in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and again he is found in England, in the person of Wiclif, who exercised a most energetic direct influence upon the Bohemian Movement, and indi