A few years ago, I read some uproariously funny pieces by one Reverend Colonel Ignatius Churchward Von Berlitz, MA (Dom. Sci.) Oxon. (Oklahoma)
gleaned by an acquaintance from the internet in its early days, the tone of which is uncomfortably representative of standard 19th century British and American scholarly writing (see here
At that time, I was also revisiting the volumes of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, under the general editorship of The Rev. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., successively Professor of the German Reformed Seminary, Mercersburg (PA), and Union Theological Seminary, New York. Now, as is well known, the introductions and notes in these volumes, a bona-fide product of 19th century British and American scholarship, ooze the same kind of haughty intellectual complacency. This is why I was quite surprised to read (by chance, as I usually ignore the introductions) these most reasonable lines from the pen of the editor of St Basil’s ‘Hexaemeron,’ The Rev. Blomfield Jackson, M.A., Vicar of Saint Bartholomew’s, Moor Lane, and Fellow of King’s College, London:
“[T]he fact that Basil is not ahead of the science of his time is not to his discredit. It is to his credit that he is abreast with it; and this, with the exception of his geography, he appears to be. Of him we may say, as Bp. Lightfoot writes of St. Clement, in connexion with the crucial instance of the Phœnix, ‘it appears that he is not more credulous than the most learned and intelligent heathen writers of the preceding and following generations.’ He reads the Book of Genesis in the light of the scientific knowledge of his age, and in the amplification and illustration of Holy Scripture by the supposed aid of this supposed knowledge, neither he nor his age stands alone. Later centuries may possibly not accept all the science of the XIXth.”
Ah, if only our contemporaries understood as much not only about the ancients, but indeed about their own work!