Page images
PDF
EPUB

Here he uses religion in the first line in a purely modern sense, in the second line in a truly classical sense. What he meant was that he was held back by awe, by reverence and humility, from deciding on the truth of any single form of faith, and this the Romans too might have called religion.

French has in some expressions retained the classical meaning of religio. In such a phrase as Il a une religion inviolable pour sa parole we recognise the Latin religio jurisjurandi 1.

Later meanings of Religio. We now have to follow the word religio in its later wanderings. Transferred to a Christian soil, religion became really a foreign word, and as such had to be defined by those who used it, and chiefly by theologians and philosophers. We naturally look first to the Old and New Testament to see in what sense religion is used there. But in the translation of the Old Testament the word religion never occurs, and in the New Testament it occurs three times only; and in one of these passages the translation varies between religion and superstition. In the Acts of the Apostles, xxvi. 5, we read : 'I lived a Pharisee after the most straitest sect of our religion. Here religion, in the Vulgate, religio, corresponds to the Greek Opnokela, which means outward worship of the gods. In the Epistle of St. James (i. 26, 27), we have Opmokela, religious worship, and the adjective Opñokos, which is rendered by religious, in the Vulgate by religiosus.

In the Epistle to the Galatians (i. 13, 14) the translation the “Jews' religion' is meant to render the Greek ’Iovdaïouós, which is retained in the Vulgate as Judaismus. Lastly, in the Acts, xxv. 19, they had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive,' we have in Greek deloidaluovia, which really means the fear of the gods, and which the Vulgate translates rightly by superstitio, the Revised Version less correctly by religion 1.

1 See Littré, s.v. He also cites such expressions as il a une religion et un zèle pour les interêts du roi, or il se fait une religion d'écouter les raisons, Other Biblical expressions for religion are póßos Toll B600, datpeia, Sovacía. See E. Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 45..

In all these passages, what is intended by religio, as used in the Vulgate, is a system of religious belief and worship; no longer what was meant by religio in its classical sense. The nearest approach to religio in its original meaning is found in the Greek ευσέβεια.

The verb oéboual?, expressed at first being awestruck, standing back with awe. Thus oéßas ' ¢xel floopówvta meant 'awe holds me back while I behold. It afterwards is used for reverence towards the gods. Thus Eugéßela Znvós is used by Sophocles (Electra, 1097) in the sense of reverence towards Zeus, and the same word with the preposition els occurs in the sense of piety towards parents, as in Plato's Republic, 615 C, eủoélela eis Deoùs kai yovéas. After Homer we find oébouai used with the accusative, like veneror, for instance, oéßouai Deoús, I worship the gods.

At first the Greeks used decolòaluovia, fear of the gods or of the demons, and φοβείσθαι το θείον, to fear the divine power, in a good sense. But very soon deloldaluovía was used in a bad sense, as superstition, so that Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (161-180, A. D.) speaks of θεοσεβής χωρίς δεισιδαιμονίας, god - fearing without superstition 1.

2 Brugmann's derivation of oébouai and oéßas from Sanskrit tyag, to leave, is not tenable, on account of the difference of meaning; see Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xxv, p. 301. If an etymology must be given, I should connect oéßas with ooßéw, to scare away, and Sanskrit kshubh, to perturb. The transition of ks into s in Greek is irregular, but not without analogy ; see Curtius, p. 696. In kshubh we should have to recognise a parallel form of kshabh. But this is very doubtful,

Dogmatic Definitions. We have now to consider the third class of definitions, which I called dogmatic. They differ from the etymological and historical definitions in that they give us the opinions of individuals, whether theologians or philosophers, who take upon themselves to say, not so much what religion does mean or did mean, but what it shall mean. There is generally something dictatorial in such definitions. I open the pages of a philosophical journal”, and I find in close proximity the following definitions of religion: ‘Religion is our recognition of the unity of nature, and teaches us to consider ourselves as parts of the whole ; and who can doubt its strong influence upon all our conduct!' On the next page I read, · Theology and Metaphysics have nothing to do with Morality,' and soon after, 'Religion has never been other than science, plus worship or emotion.'

We can hardly open a book without meeting with similar random definitions of religion. Religion is said to be knowledge, and it is said to be ignorance. Religion is said to be freedom, and it is said to be dependence. Religion is said to be desire, and it is said to be freedom from all desires. Religion is said to be silent contemplation, and it is said to be splendid and stately worship of God. People take every kind of liberty with this old word. Young poets will tell you that poetry is their religion, young artists, that their religion is art, while it has been said of old that

1 Eis autóv, lib. vi. $ 30, ed. Gataker, p. 52. ? The Open Court, vol. i. pp. 978-981.

pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep yourselves unspotted from the world 1.'

We cannot contest the right of every one to define religion as he understands it. For see how the matter stands with regard to definition. We have the etymological meaning of religion, but that is not binding; and we have the various historical meanings of religion, and they again are not binding. What criteria then can we discover for testing the truth of what I call the dogmatic definitions of religion? Some are clearly far too narrow, others far too wide. Some are faulty in themselves, others prove deficient when we try to apply them to historical facts. We must examine the most important of them, and though such an examination, even of the most important definitions only, will no doubt occupy some time, we ought to remember how often a whole dialogue has been devoted by Plato to this kind of philosophical reconnoitring, and ought not to grudge the time which we have to devote to this preliminary inquiry.

Religion and Theology. In conducting this inquiry we must be careful in the choice and use of our own words, and we must try, as far as possible, to use every word in one sense only. We must distinguish, for instance, between religion and theology, though these words have often

? Ep. St. James, i, 27,

been used promiscuously. By religion we should always understand the subject itself, by theology the study or science of that subject. This terminology, so far as the word theology is concerned, has prevailed ever since the time of Abelard, and there seems to be no reason for changing it.

The Greek word theologos was used originally in a different sense. Thus Homer and Hesiod were called theologi (Herodotus, ii. 53), not in the modern sense of theologians, but as conversant with the origin and history of the gods. Hesiod's Theogony might have been called his Theology, or, at all events, a part of it, and that name is applied to similar works, such as the Theology of Thamyris, and of Orpheus, who is specially called ó Ocolóyos by the Neo-platonists 1. Plato and Aristotle used theology in the sense of doctrine concerning Deity and Divine things,’ λόγοι περί του θεού και περί των θειών.

In Latin theologia was taken by Varro in the sense of what we call religion, there being according to him three kinds of theology, the mythical, the physical, and the civil. The mythical theology contained the fables about the gods, and many things, we are told, contrary to the dignity of immortal beings. The physical theology was described by him as beyond the capacity of the vulgar, while he considered the civil theology, the received religion of Rome, as best for a good citizen to believe.

In Christian phraseology theologos meets us first as the name of the author of the Apocalypse, John the Divine, or the theologos. This name, however, we are told, was given to him, not simply because he was

1 See Gruppe, Die griechischen Culte, pp. 632–637.

« PreviousContinue »