Francis Bacon & Bible Excerpts


Francis Bacon's Biography

1561–1626, English philosopher, essayist, and statesman, b. London, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Gray's Inn. He was knighted in 1603, became attorney general in 1613, lord keeper in 1617, and lord chancellor in 1618; he was created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Albans in 1621. He spent the rest of his life writing in retirement. Bacon belongs to both philosophy and literature. He projected a large philosophical work, the Instauratio Magna, but completed only two parts, The Advancement of Learning (1605), later expanded in Latin as De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623), and the Novum Organum (1620).
Bacon's contribution to philosophy was his application of the inductive method of modern science. He urged full investigation in all cases, avoiding theories based on insufficient data. He has been widely censured for being too mechanical, failing to carry his investigations to their logical ends, and not staying abreast of the scientific knowledge of his own day. In the 19th cent., Macaulay initiated a movement to restore Bacon's prestige as a scientist.
Today his contributions are regarded with considerable respect. In The New Atlantis (1627) he describes a scientific utopia that found partial realization with the organization of the Royal Society in 1660. His Essays (1597–1625), largely aphoristic, are his best-known writings. They are noted for their style and for their striking observations about life.

from Francis Bacon's Novum Orgaanum "Idols of the Cave"

The Idols of the Cave take their rise in the peculiar constitution, mental or bodily, of each individual; and also in education, habit, and accident. Of this kind there is a great number and variety; but I will instance those the pointing out of which contains the most important caution, and which have most effect in disturbing the clearness of the understanding.
Men become attached to certain particular sciences and speculations, either because they fancy themselves the authors and inventors thereof, or because they have bestowed the greatest pains upon them and become most habituated to them. But men of this kind, if they betake themselves to philosophy and contemplations of a general character, distort and colour them in obedience to their former fancies; a thing especially to be noticed in Aristotle, who made his natural philosophy a mere bond-servant to his logic, thereby rendering it contentious and well nigh useless. The race of chemists again out of a few experiments of the furnace have built up a fantastic philosophy, framed with reference to a few things; and Gilbert also, after he had employed himself most laboriously in the study and observation of the loadstone, proceeded at once to construct an entire system in accordance with his favourite subject.
There is one principal and as it were radical distinction between different minds, in respect of philosophy and the sciences; which is this: that some minds are stronger and apter to mark the differences of things, others to mark their resemblances. The steady and acute mind can fix its contemplations and dwell and fasten on the subtlest distinctions: the lofty and discursive mind recognises and puts together the finest and most general resemblances. Both kinds however easily err in excess, by catching the one at gradations the other at shadows.
There are found some minds given to an extreme admiration of antiquity, others to an extreme love and appetite for novelty: but few so duly tempered that they can hold the mean, neither carping at what has been well laid down by the ancients, nor despising what is well introduced by the moderns. This however turns to the great injury of the sciences and philosophy; since these affectations of antiquity and novelty are the humours of partisans rather than judgments; and truth is to be sought for not in the felicity of any age, which is an unstable thing, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. These factions therefore must be abjured, and care must be taken that the intellect be not hurried by them into assent.
Contemplations of nature and of bodies in their simple form break up and distract the understanding, while contemplations of nature and bodies in their composition and configuration overpower and dissolve the understanding: a distinction well seen in the school of Leucippus and Democritus as compared with the other philosophies. For that school is so busied with the particles that it hardly attends to the structure; while the others are so lost in admiration of the structure that they do not penetrate to the simplicity of nature. These kinds of contemplation should therefore be alternated and taken by turns; that so the understanding may be rendered at once penetrating and comprehensive, and the inconveniences above mentioned, with the idols which proceed from them, may be avoided.
Let such then be our provision and contemplative prudence for keeping off and dislodging the Idols of the Cave, which grow for the most part either out of the predominance of a favourite subject, or out of an excessive tendency to compare or to distinguish, or out of partiality for particular ages, or out of the largeness or minuteness of the objects contemplated. And generally let every student of nature take this as a rule, -- that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is to be held in suspicion, and that so much the more care is to be taken in dealing with such questions to keep the understanding even and clear.

from Francis Bacon's Novum Orgaanum "Idols of the Cave"
Discussion Questions

1) In 53 what four sources of the 'Idois of the Cave" does Bacon identify?
2) What two reasons are mentioned in 54 for people becoming attached to certain ideas?
3) What is the main distinction noted in 55 between different minds?
4) According to Bacon in 57, what is the main fault with the philosophy of Leucippus and Democritus?
5) In your own words, what does Bacon think is wrong with Aristotle's philosophy?
6) If Bacon were to put himself into one of the two categories in 55, which one would it be? Why?
7) In both 55 and 56, Bacon warns against going to extremes. How does he suggest doing it?
8. What purpose does the advice in 58 serve?

The King James Bible (no biography)

King James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots, ascended the English throne upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. One of the first demands the new king faced was that of the Puritans for a uniform English version of the Bible. At the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, James accepted their demand. He commissioned fifty-four English scholars and clergymen to compare all extant texts of the Bible and to produce a definitive English edition. They succeeded perhaps beyond their expectations. The King James Version of the Holy Bible, published in 1611, has been called "the only classic ever created by a committee." From its earliest appearance until the present day it has been regarded as one of the great works of English literature.
The Bible, a collection of books developed over a period of more than twelve hundred years, consists of two main parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, the New Testament in Greek. In A.D. 382, St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, and his translation, called the Vulgate Version, remained the standard Bible in the West for centuries. An English reformer, John Wyclif, along with his followers, produced the first English translation from Latin in the late 1300's.
It was the Reformation in the 1500's, however-and the growing use of Gutenberg's movable type-that increased the demand for a Bible in the vernacular, or common language of the people. William Tyndale, a Protestant chaplain and tutor, decided to prepare a new English translation from Hebrew and Greek. Faced with clerical opposition at home, he went to Germany, where he translated and printed the New Testament in English. Arrested for heresy while at work on the Old Testament, Tyndale was executed near Brussels, Belgium, in 1536. The importance of Tyndale's New Testament is that the King James committee, impressed by its diction and rhythm, followed it more closely than any other translation in working on their 1611 masterpiece.
Other Bibles preceded the King James Version. None had the immense impact of the King James or Authorized Version, which in fact was never off icially "authorized." It won its acceptance through use. Generations of people in Great Britain and the United States grew up reading its text and adding its wisdom to the common store of knowledge. Hundreds of expressions-"swords into plowshares," "fat of the land," "out of the mouths of babes"-are familiar to nearly every English-speaking person, while the magnificent rhythms of the Bible have influenced English prose and poetry throughout its history.

"Psalm 23"

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

”Psalm 23" Discussion Questions

1) In the first part of the psalm, what images carry out the idea of the Lord as a shepherd?
2) At what point does the psalmist change from speaking of the Lord as a shepherd to viewing Him as a host preparing a feast?
3) Why would the Lord's (shepherd's) rod and staff comfort the psalmist (sheep)?
4) Why is it significant that the table is prepared "in the presence of rnine enemies"?

"Parable of the Prodigal Son"

A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, "father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
And when he came to himself, he said, "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.' "
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." But the father said to his servants, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, "Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound." And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."And he said unto him, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

”The Parable of the Prodigal Son" Discussion Questions

1) What happens to the younger son' s money?
2) Why does the younger son return home? What does he intend to say to his father?
3) How does the father react to the younger son?
4) Why is the older son angry? How does his father answer the complaint?
5) From the limited evidence given in the parable, how repentant do you think the younger son is?
6) Why is the father happy rather than unhappy at the sight of his younger son?
7) To what extent do you think the older son is justified in being angry at the treatment given his brother?

"I Cornthians 13"

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

"I Cornthians 13" Discussion Questions

1) In each of the first three sentences, the apostle Paul mentions some impressive personal achievements. What are they? In each case, if he lacks charity, what is the result?
2) The sentence beginning "Charity suffereth long" describes the nature of charity. What does charity do? What does it not do?
3. This passage is a letter to the Corinthians. In it Paul advises them to prepare for the coming perfect times with God. What analogy does he use to make his point clear?
4) Knowing what Paul means by charity is vital to an understanding of the passage. He does not mean "human kindness" or "doing good." What does the word charity mean, as Paul uses it?
5) Given this definition of charity, how do faith and hope relate to charity? Why is charity "the greatest of these"?
6) Find two uses of parallelism. Does the use of parallelism make the writing more or less effective? Explain.