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