Page images

sacrifices, and auspicia, observations of the fight of birds, to which a third part has been added, namely, when the interpreters of the Sibyl or the haruspices declared something for the sake of prophecy from portenta and monstra. The auspicia he supposes to have been founded by Romulus, the sacra by Numa. In another place he distinguishes superstition from religion, quae deorum cultu pio contineturl, which consists in the devout worship of the gods.' We meet even with such expressions as religio deorum inmortalium ?, i.e. the worship of the immortal gods.

So far we can watch the natural development of the word religio in Latin. It began with the meaning of care, attention, reverence, awe; it then took the moral sense of scruple and conscience; and lastly became more and more exclusively applied to the inward feeling of reverence for the gods and to the outward manifestation of that reverence in worship and-sacrifice. There are some late writers who use religio in the sense of faith; for instance, Cassiodorus (died 562, A.D.), Religionem cogere non possunius, quia nemo cogitur ut invitus credat, We cannot force religion, for no one is ever forced to believe against his will’: but in classical Latin religio never has that meaning.

Thus ends the biography of the word religio, so long as it lived its natural life, unchequered by technical definition. We can clearly see that what the Romans expressed by religio was chiefly the moral or practical, not the speculative or philosophical side of religion. The questions as to the IN. D. i. 42, 117.

2 Cic. Lael. 25, 96. 3 Variarum Libri, ii. 27.

existence, the character and powers of their gods, did not trouble their minds, so long as they were left to themselves; still less did they make their sense of moral obligation, which they called religio, dependent on their faith in the gods only. They had a feeling of awe in their hearts at the sight of anything that seemed to them overpowering and beyond the grasp of their senses and their understanding. They did not care much whence that feeling arose, but they called it religio, that is, considering, thinking twice, hesitating; that was enough for them. The idea that the gods had implanted that feeling in their hearts, or that a thing was wrong or right because the gods had forbidden or commanded it, did not occur to them, till they had come in contact with Greek philosophy. Their religion, if we may use that word in its later and far more general sense, was very much what Spinoza in his Tractatus theologico-politicus thinks that practical religion ought always to be, simple piety and obedience, as distinguished from philosophy and love of knowledge. The gods were accepted without any misgivings, their approval of what was right and good was taken for granted, and no further questions were asked. So great is the difference between religio, as understood by the Romans, and religio as commonly understood by us, that religio Romana would never have conveyed to Cato the idea of his knowledge of Jupiter, Mars, or Vesta, and the duties he owed to them, but rather that of ancient Roman piety. There is a well-known verse by Schiller:

• Which religion I have? There is none of all you may mention, Which I embrace, and the cause ? Truly, religion it is.'



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 Opnokela, 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 ’lovdaïouós, 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 decolòalpovía, which really means the fear of the gods, and which the Vulgate translates rightly by superstitio, the Revised Version less correctly by religion?

i 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 découter les raisons.

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 eúdéßela. The verb oéßouai ?, expressed at first being awestruck, standing back with awe. Thus σέβας μ' έχει εισορόωντα meant 'awe holds me back while I behold. It afterwards is used for reverence towards the gods. Thus eucéßela Znvós is used by Sophocles (Electra, 1097) in the sense of reverence towards Zeus, and the same word with the preposition eis occurs in the sense of piety towards parents, as in Plato's Republic, 615 C, ejdézela eis Ocoùs kai yovéas. After Homer we find géßouai used with the accusative, like veneror, for instance, oéßouai Deoús, I worship the gods.

At first the Greeks used decolòaluovía, fear of the 1 Other Biblical expressions for religion are póßos Toll 0600, datpeia, douleia. See E. Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 45.

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,



gods or of the demons, and poßeio dai delov, 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.

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

Els cavtóv, lib. vi. § 30, ed. Gataker, p. 52. ? The Open Court, vol. i. pp. 978-981.

« PreviousContinue »