Tag Archive | Broad Church

25th June 1862 – Criticism of the Bible: What was the World Coming to?

Professor Rowland Williams, one of the most influential theologians of the 19th century, was a supporter of the new Biblical criticism and a pioneer of comparative religious studies in Britain.

After being charged with heresy along with the Editor of ‘Essays and Reviews’, they were acquitted on appeal to the Privy Council. It proved to be a turning point in protecting the liberty and conscience, of those within the Church of England.


The literal understanding of the ‘Good Book’ had been undermined by the men underneath.


Charles Darwin


Darwin’s ‘Bulldog’, the biologist Thomas Huxley.


Four months after Darwin’s publication on evolution, ‘Essays and Reviews’ was published in March 1860. It was a Broad Church volume of seven essays on Christianity by seven academics and Anglican churchman, reflecting the new theological thinking.




Today in 1862 Professor Rowland Williams, vice-Principal and Professor of Hebrew at St.David’s, Lampeter, Wales, was found guilty along with theologian, Henry Bristow Wilson on 3 out of the 8 Articles brought against them in the dissertation on the ‘National Church’ in the influential ‘ Essays and Reviews’.(1)

They were prosecuted by Walter Kerr Hamilton, Bishop of Salisbury for heterodoxy, three of which were admitted, and cited before The Arches Court of Canterbury. The trial occupied ten days between the 19th and 21st of December 1861, and between the  7th and 16th of January 1862-constituting a cause-celebre at the time.

However the Judgement handed down, sanctioned most positions of Biblical criticism and the relationship of scripture to science. Later hearings dealt with those relating to the three indictments concerning the admitted articles.

The charges related to the ‘Essays and Reviews’ published in February 1860 by seven theologians who had been influenced by the new German Higher Biblical criticism,  contributors who included academics such Benjamin Jowett and Frederick Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury, and Baden-Powell (father of Boy Scouts’ founder.

The early 19th century was the age of the ‘scriptural geologists’ many of them Anglican clergymen, such as Cockburn, Dean of York, and the influential and Evangelistic Rev.Thomas Gisborne who wrote ‘Testimony of Natural Theology to Christianity (1818), and Concerns on the Modern Theories of Geology (1837), which went against the trend of the new scientific geologists whose work on strata was demonstrating processes over millennia, thus conflicting with Biblical accounts.

(1) Williams was in office, at Lampeter, between 1849 and 1862. Bristow was a Fellow of St. John’s,  Oxford.

Ref: Rowland Williams/ wikipedia.org/wikipedia/d-n-b

Ref: Essays and Reviews wikipedia.org

Next Post looks at the General who ‘Gott’ Away or ‘Monty’s’ luck.


22nd June 1865 – 19th Century Espionage and Excavation in the Middle-East.

With a growing split opening between Anglicans and the restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in 1850, came an increasing desire to seek proof of Biblical Revelation through excavation in the ‘Holy Land’.

Thus it was Today in 1865 that a group of archaeologists and clergy financed, initially with £300, the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF). Among the first contributors were Arthur P Stanley, Dean of Westminster and George Grove later to found the Royal College of Music.

The high profile of the Officers of the PEF shows that this was no ordinary organisation as Patrons were monarchs; Presidents were Primates of the Church of England, and other officials included Sir Walter Besant and Major-General Charles Wilson of military intelligence, and (Sir) Charles Warren, later Police Commissioner and H.H.Kitchener, later Field Marshal.

With such a delicate task the new organisation had to steer a course between Anglo-Catholics, Broad Church and missionary-inspired Evangelicals, especially as work on Sanskrit texts had shown the similarity of other religions, thus undermining the perceived unique status of Christianity. Also Darwin in 1859 had published his work on evolution.(1)



SAM_1705 (2)

Sir William Flinders looking, barring the cap, like some Old Testament prophet.

The PEF was for 20 years the principle British exploration society in the Middle East and depended greatly on the Royal Engineers who surveyed the Sinai Peninsular and land west and east of the River Jordan.

The 1st April 1870 saw the foundation of the Topographical Department of the War Office under Charles Wilson, and much survey work was closely linked to our military interests in the region, which was to prove vital for espionage up to and beyond World War I.

After 1886 the Fund was largely engaged on archaeological digs under (Sir) William Flinders, RA Macalister and Duncan Mackenzie. Between 1913 and 1914 the PEF was a vehicle for War Office ‘surveys’ when Charles Leonard Woolley and T.E. Lawrence were retained to excavate the wilderness of Zin, as a means of directing Turkish intelligence away from military work.

With the onset of the Great War, British occupation of the area ended along with the PEF military surveys. But on December 9th, 1917 General Edmund Allenby approached the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, removed his cap and entered on horseback, and so occupied the Holy Land. Britain had entered into its perceived inheritance.

(1) Frederick Dennison Maurice in 1847 published a series of Sanskrit texts.

Ref Jerusalem-The PEF and British interest in the Holy Land. J James Moscrop Leicester UP, Cassell Imprint London.

Ref: Wikipedia, PEF

Ref: Ref: Joan M Schwartz and James R Ryan ‘Picturing Places, Photographic and Geographic Images’, 2003 I. B. Tauris.

Next Post looks at Elasticity and the principles of Robert Hooke.