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PAPERS AND PROCEEDINGS
JUNE AND DECEMBER, 1883.
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The Argument E Silentio,
BY PROF. C. A. BRIGGS, D.D.
HE Argument from Silence is frequently used on all sides, and
yet there is general distrust as to its validity. This is certainly an unsatisfactory state of affairs. If the argument be invalid, scholars ought to abandon it. If, however, it be valid, its validity should be clearly established and generally recognized. The uncertainty as to this argument is due to a lack of consideration of the merits of the question and the absence of discriminating definitions. From a sense of the need of such definitions in our own studies, we propose to beat our way into this difficult investigation, in hope that others will correct our mistakes, and improve upon our results. We are assured with Robert Boyle (Some Considerations touching the Style of the H. Scriptures, Lond., 1661, p. 11), “ There is such a fulnesse in that book that oftentimes it sayes much by saying nothing; and not only its expressions, but its silences are teaching, like a Dyall, in which the shadow as well as the light informs us."
(1) Silence is, in many cases, a lack of evidence, for the reason that the matter in question did not come within the scope of the author's argument. To determine whether this be so or not, may not always be easy, but it is a necessary preliminary to any use of the argument from silence. We must first determine exactly what the author does say in its organic connection, together with the design and the scope of his argument, before we can draw any safe conclusions with regard to that which lies outside of his limits, and the silence that he maintains with respect to the matters of our inquiry. Thus, in the question as to the "men of the Great Synagogue," it is argued by many