Conybeare Historical Christ



This little volume was written in the spring of the year 1913, and is intended as a plea for moderation and good sense in dealing with the writings of early Christianity; just as my earlier volumes entitled Myth, Magic, and Morals and A History of New Testament Criticism were pleas for the free use, in regard to the origins of that religion, of those methods of historical research to which we have learned to subject all records of the past. It provides a middle way between traditionalism on the one hand and absurdity on the other, and as doing so will certainly be resented by the partisans of each form of excess.

The comparative method achieved its first great triumph in the field of Indo-European philology; its second in that of mythology and folk-lore. It is desirable to allow to it its full rights in the matter of Christian origins. But we must be doubly careful in this new and almost unworked region to use it with the same scrupulous care for evidence, with the same absence of prejudice and economy of hypothesis, to [viii]which it owes its conquests in other fields. The untrained explorers whom I here criticize discover on almost every page connections in their subject-matter where there are and can be none, and as regularly miss connections where they exist. Parallelisms and analogies of rite, conduct, and belief between religious systems and cults are often due to other causes than actual contact, inter-communication, and borrowing. They may be no more than sporadic and independent manifestations of a common humanity. It is not enough, therefore, for one agent or institution or belief merely to remind us of another. Before we assert literary or traditional connection between similar elements in story and myth, we must satisfy ourselves that such communication was possible. The tale of Sancho Panza and his visions of a happy isle, over which he shall hold sway when his romantic lord and master, Don Quixote, has overcome with his good sword the world and all its evil, reminds us of the naïf demand of the sons of Zebedee (Mark x, 37) to be allowed to sit on the right hand and the left of their Lord, so soon as he is glorified. With equal simplicity (Matthew xix, 28) Jesus promises that in the day of the regeneration of Israel, when the Son of Man takes his seat on his throne of glory, Peter and his companions shall also take their seats on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. The projected [ix]mise en scène is exactly that of a Persian great king with his magnates on their several “cushions” of state around him. There is, again, a close analogy psychologically between Dante’s devout adoration of Beatrice in heaven and Paul’s of the risen Jesus. These two parallels are closer than most that Mr. Robertson discovers between Christian story and Pagan myth, yet no one in his senses would ever suggest that Cervantes drew his inspiration from the Gospels or Dante from the Pauline Epistles. In criticizing the Gospels it is all the more necessary to proceed cautiously, because the obscurantists are incessantly on the watch for solecisms—or “howlers,” as a schoolboy would call them; and only too anxious to point to them as of the essence of all free criticism of Christian literature and history.

Re-reading these pages after the lapse of many months since they were written, I have found little to alter, though Prof. A. C. Clark, who has been so good as to peruse them, has made a few suggestions which, where the sheets were not already printed, I have embodied. I append a list of errata calling for correction.

Fred. C. Conybeare.

Cox Expositor’s Bible Book of Ecclesiastes


The Lectures on which this book is founded were delivered five-and-twenty years ago, and were published in A.D. 1867.[1] For more than twenty years the book has been out of print, a large first edition having been speedily sold out. No other edition was issued owing to the fact that my publisher soon passed into another profession. I have often been asked to reprint it, but have always felt that, before reprinting, I must rewrite it. Till of late, however, I could not command leisure for the task. But when, at the commencement of this year, the Editor of The Expositor’s Bible did me the honour to ask permission to reprint it, that he might include it in this excellent series, I had leisure at command, and cheerfully devoted it to the revision of my work. Among the more recent commentaries I have read with this purpose in view, those which[vi] I have found most helpful and suggestive were that of Delitzsch, that by Dr. Wright, that of Dean Plumptre, and the fine fragment contributed to The Expositor by Dr. Perowne, the Dean of Peterborough. In the preface to the former edition I dwelt on my indebtedness to the commentary of Dr. Ginsburg, published in A.D. 1861. In my judgment it still remains by far the best, the most thorough and the most sound. It has but one serious defect; it is addressed to scholars, and so abounds in learning and erudition that it can never come into popular use. Indeed even now, although during the last twenty years there has been an immense advance in the study and exposition of Holy Writ, and many able and learned men have devoted themselves to the service of the general public, I know of no commentary on this Scripture which really meets the wants of the unlettered. I cannot but hope, therefore, that the Quest of the Chief Good may still serve a useful purpose, and that, in its revised form, it may be found helpful to those who most need help.

In rewriting the book I have retained as much as I could of its earlier form, lest the vivacity of a first exposition of the Scripture should be lost. And, indeed, the alterations I have had to make are but[vii] slight for the most part, though I have in many places altered, and, I hope, amended both the translation and the commentary: but there are one or two additions—they will be found on pages 20-26, and, again, in certain modifications of the exposition of Chapter XII., verses 9-12, on pages 279-305; dealing mainly with the structure of Ecclesiastes—which may, I trust, be found useful not to the general reader alone. Since the original edition appeared I have had to study the Book of Job, most of the Psalms, many of the Prophetical writings, and some of the Proverbs; and it was inevitable that in the course of these pleasant studies I should arrive at clearer and more definite conceptions on the structure of Hebrew poetry. These I now place at the service of my readers, and submit to the judgment of scholars and critics.

Another and much more important result of these subsequent studies has been that I can now speak with a more assured confidence of the theme of this Scripture, and of its handling by the Author. None of the scholars who have recently commented on the Book doubt that it is the quest of the chief good which it sets forth; and though some of them arrange and divide it differently, yet, on the whole and in the main, they are agreed that this quest is[viii] urged in Wisdom, in Pleasure, in Devotion to Public Affairs, in Wealth and in the Golden Mean; and that it ends and rests in the large noble conclusion, that only as men reverence God, and keep his commandments, and trust in his love, do they touch their true ideal, and find a good that will satisfy and sustain them under all changes, even to the last. The assent to this view of the Book was by no means general a quarter of a century ago; but it is so wide now, and is sanctioned by the authority of so many schools of learning, that I think no reader of the following pages need be disturbed by misgivings as to the accuracy of the main lines of thought here set forth.

Few Scriptures of the Old Testament are so familiar to the general reader as Ecclesiastes; and that mainly, I think, because it addresses itself to a problem which is “yours, mine, every man’s.” Many more quotations from it have entered into our current speech than have been taken from Job, for example, although Job is both a much larger and a much finer poem than this—”the finest poem,” as a great living poet has said, “whether of the modern or of the antique world.” It is a Book which can never lose its interest for men until the last conflict in the long strife of doubt has led in[ix] the final victory of faith; and seems, in especial, to adapt itself to the conditions and wants of the present age. It deals with the very questions which are in all our minds, and offers a solution of them, and, so far as I know, the only solution, in which those who have “eternity in their hearts” can rest. May all who study it, with such help as the following pages afford, find rest to their souls, and be drawn from the heat and strife of thought into the calm and hallowed sanctuary which it throws open to our erring feet.

The Holme, Hastings,
October 1890.

Chadwell, D. – Becoming God’s Spiritual Person

Becoming God’s Spiritual Person

published online by David Chadwell, 2010.  This book challenges the reader to realize there is a difference between being religious and being spiritual.  It affirms the continuing involvement of the activity of the divine in our salvation.  It challenges all in Christ to seek spirituality.  It challenges the reader to think.  It does not challenge readers to conform to specific values or concepts. Continue reading