Hort's seance attendance - ad hominem argumentation

Steven Avery

PBF - sister threads.

Westcott and Hort occultism - seance and 'communion of saints'

occultism in textual writers - Hoskier, Ginsburg, Westcott-Hort - also Mark in Latin

Hort's secrecy Roby curse for the Cambridge Apostles
(this discussion can be brought here)


Ad Hominem 101 - Classical "to the man" & Modern "against the man"

Ad hominem, in the modern sense, consists of claiming that a person is deficient in some way not germane to the actual arguments given. And that therefore his arguments should be ignored or discounted. This is often, but not always, fallacious. (Below I give some non-fallacious examples.) This is arguing "against the man" (but not his positions or logic.)

The classical ad hominem was "to the man" and consists of allowing a person's position, for the sake of argument, even if the person making the ad hominen argument considers it factually untrue. This is done in order to follow the logic. And then the writer can show that it actually, when followed to the logical conclusions, is not a consistent argument, or even would favor his side.


Example from John William Burgon

This classical method was used skillfully e.g. by John William Burgon in discussing the bogus Syrian, or Lucian, recension theory proposed by Fenton Hort. Burgon was writing in Revision Revised, 1883, in a section starting on p. 272. Burgon allowed, for the sake of argument, the theory to be true, even while it had zero actual historical evidence. And showed that the theory would would still be evidence against the Hortian textual structure.

Revision Revised (1883)

John William Burgon

p. 277-282 is the main part, but both before and after is related and masterful. A very nice read.


Fallacy Detective Forum

This one-page thread on the Fallacy Detective forum could be helpful to anyone wanting to use the words properly.

The Fallacy Detective

Argument ad hominem - historical shift


when the modern ad hominem is not a fallacy

On the Facebook PureBible forum I gave this example of an ad hominem argument, against the man, that would not be fallacious.

(... extreme example: if a murderer abortionist or pedophile or is giving a talk on "ethics" or "Christian morality", there is nothing fallacious about pointing that out and saying it is going to be a talk of no worth, because of the source. It is ad hominem, and true.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/purebible/782959648462593/?ref=notif&notif_t=like
Here is another example for you of the modern use of ad hominem.


Example in looking at Fenton Hort, writing of the seance attendance.

Let's say we are talking about the development of the Westcott-Hort recension. The 1881 new, abbreviated and corrupted Greek New Testament largely based on Codex Vaticanus. We can point out that Fenton Hort (1828-1892) in 1864, at 36, long out of the college years and in the midst of the Bible text development years, wrote of attendance at a seance held by Augustus and Sophia Morgan. Augustus was a famous mathematician who was:

"well briefed in mesmerism and clairvoyance",
Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith By Daniel J. Cohen, 2007, p. 126
While Sophia Elizabeth de Morgan (1809-1882) was an occultist who had just written:

From matter to spirit: The result of ten years'experience in spirit manifestations. Intended as a guide to enquirers (1863)

Sophia de Morgan

With the Preface being written by Augustus. They were deeply involved in the demonic world of spiritualism and "The History of Spiritualism" by Arthur Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes writer) references their activities and beliefs many times, as prominent spiritualists, here is one example:

Mrs. De Morgan's "From Matter to Spirit" ... This book, with its weighty preface by the celebrated mathematician Professor De Morgan, is one of the pioneer works of the spiritual movement in Great Britain.
This seance attendance of Hort, and his friendship with these occultists, was exposed in his letters published after his death, in a letter to his wife, 23 Oct 1864:

Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, Volume 2 (1896)
Sir Anthony Hort

"We had a pleasant evening, six of Westcott's Sixth Form boys dining with us .... Then we worked till near dinner, when we had a very nice little party, the two De Morgans, H. M. Butler, Farrar, Brady and his mother, and H. W. Watson. Mrs. Brady ... came in the evening. We tried to turn tables, but the creatures wouldn't stir. Both the De Morgans were radiant and pleasant. Today we have been to morning chapel, and had a good sermon from Bradby ..."
In response, a defender of the Westcott-Hort recension (the base text of all the modern Critical Texts of the GNT) could say that this is an ad hominem argument. And they would be correct, up to that point.

This is a quote related to the character and life of the men involved in the Bible text. However, it is germane, and not fallacious, because it can contribute to understanding the forces that formed Hort's well-documented animus, even from his younger years, against the Received Text. And thus help to show what forces "inspired" (negatively) his writings.

Thus the use of this historical/spiritual argument could be considered ad hominem.
And it is not fallacious.


The normal excuse for the occultish connections and activities of Westcott (read his section on the Communion of the Saints) and Hort is that it was college dabbling, just for fun or research. However, that excuse fails here.


I'm improving some points from the CARM thread (adjustments are in a one-hour period, and the thread will vanish in a year or two. They also only allow 2 non-CARM urls in a post, so I have added more here.)

And, by the grace of the Lord Jesus, I will plan on adding more here about ad hominem, logic and fallacies, the Hort seance, and the bogus lucian recension argument by Hort that was disassembled by Burgon.

Steven Avery
Last edited:

Steven Avery

Welcome Erloser.

We just recently fixed some of the signon and posting capabilities, by upgrading the vBulletin.