Imágenes de páginas

pretty much as the books of Samuel and Kings are ranked among the early Hebrew prophets; they interpret, urge, comment, explain.1 In no case is their object merely the presentment of an impersonal record or chronicle, written by a man out of close touch with contemporary life. As it has often been remarked, their motto might be the words, eic iriarew; eh iriarriv. Their general purpose is not to convert. On the contrary, presupposing a certain knowledge of Jesus and faith in him, they aim at developing these by portraying Christ's words and deeds with especial reference to the homely and practical exigencies of present life:2

"Where truth in closest words shall fail,
When truth embodied in a tale
Shall enter in at lowly doors."

The third gospel bears on the face of it a personal and didactic aim (Lk l1"4, Ac l1"2), and this applies to its sequel (cp. 17/ua? Ac 1422). The fourth gospel also was composed for the religious needs of a circle which was definite and familiar to the author (Jo 20s0"31; cp. also the traditions of its origin, Euseb. HE, vi. 14, and the Murat. Canon). Mark and Matthew lack any formal indication of such a purpose. But as far back as the stream of tradition can be followed, it is remarkable that both are made to depend upon original sources which share this very characteristic. Mark, the companion and interpreter of Peter, is reported by Papias to have put into writing the reminiscences of that apostle as these were addressed to the Eoman Christians and adapted to their religious needs (S? 7^09 To? %peia<: eVotetTO T«9 Bi&ao-ica\ia<;, Euseb. HE, iii. 39). To this report Clement of Alexandria

1 The strange occurrence of "you" in a professedly historical writing (Jo 19a 2031} implies an audience, though the corresponding "I" is never expressed. "It is the speech of the preachor before an assembled church" (Zahn, Eiid. ii. pp. 467, 476).

2 On the priority of the moral and religious interests to the historical, Jowett has some sensible remarks: Pluto, vol. iii. pp. xxxvii-xxxviii. A similar motive dominates the Nikomachean Ethics (i. 2,-5, n. 2, VI. 5), where Aristotle repeatedly oxplains that his aim is to determine conduct as well as to propound theory. Sec p. 7o.

adds "a tradition of the former presbyters," that Mark wrote thus at the direct instigation and request of many of Peter's hearers, to whom the gospel was subsequently delivered (Euseb. HE, vi. 14). Matthew, according to Eusebius {HE, iii. 24), preached formerly to Hebrews: "When ho was about to go to others as well, he committed to writing his gospel (to tear avrbv evarfyiXtov), and thus, by his writing, filled up the want which his absence made among those he left behind." These fragments of evidence drawn from the traditions upon the origin of the gospels or from the gospels themselves, corroborate the view by which these writings are regarded as immediately, and in the same sense, if not to the same degree or in the same form, as the epistles, the outcome and transcript of a definitely religious situation. Their raison d'itre lay in the authoritative and binding power exercised by the words of Jesus over the primitive community from the very beginning, as well as in the need, stirred by exigencies of time and place, for possessing that standard in an accessible and fairly uniform shape, for the purpose of personal conduct, missionary enterprise, and religious nourishment. The gospels, in fact, are the first Christian creed: they are the naive expression of the creed in history.

This aspect of the gospels requires to be thrown into relief. Historical writing implies inquiry behind it, and iuquiry is the outcome of certain needs. It was not that the evangelic writers composed their stories with a moral. The story itself was the moral. The general end for which they wrote was invariably the same; they undertook the task, not as chroniclers reporting a series of past events, nor as literary artists sketching a picture of action, nor even as pupils reproducing a master's words and orders, but simply to train and foster the faith of men in Jesus. There was no thought of gratifying curiosity, still less of formally putting before the world trustworthy records of that faith or of presenting disquisitions upon its issues and origin. The audiences of the evangelists had other needs. For them Christ's words were the primary religious authority. They required to possess these words in a form at once intelligible, reliable, and applicable to common life; and as they could not love and obey an unknown being, however heavenly and glorious, Jesus had to be set before them as a human character, whose actions and interests were the main channel of his self-expression. How were Christians in the apostolic age to behave to the Jewish authorities, to the current standards and practices of religion, to civil requirements, to outsiders in their district, to their families, to the state? How were they to conduct themselves in missiontours, when arraigned before magistrates, in view of the Jewish law? Answers to these and a host of other more theoretical questions were sought and found in what Jesus was reported to have said and done. Yet in a large number of cases the precise questions and problems took a form which could hardly have existed except in the experience of the apostolic age, when the early Christians were thrown upon their own resources in view of an unlooked for future, and confronted with the task of energetic propaganda. Written thus, from and for the practical religious interests of the Church, it was inevitable that this characteristic should in a measure affect the contents of the gospels.1 It is satisfactory to find this frankly recognised even in Mark by so moderate a critic as Zahn {EM. ii. pp. 248, 249, " Die Riicksicht auf die Erbauung und das Streben nach Verdeutlichung schliesst die peinlich genaue Wiederholung der vor Jahren unter ganz anderen Verhaltnissen gesprochenen Worte Jesu aus"). He notices ical eveicev rod euayyeXiW (8s5 1029), 227 838 91 io«» 13M 14s8, and particularly 9" {on, Xpiarov iare); sayings in all of which we hear the voice of the

1 Even the structure of a gospel like Matthew snows traces of numerical arrangement (fives and sevens, e.g.), introduced in order to facilitate its use as a catechism, or simply preserved from sources used for such a purpose (cp. Horae Synopticae, pp. 131-136, for instances of this Jewish habit). The aim of furnishing a code or series of regulations upon various points of Christian conduct is reflected in passages such as Clem. Rom. xiii. ; Did. i. R«5ville calls attention to the didactic and sevenfold grouping of the speeches in Matthew: (i.) the new law, 53-7n; (ii.) apostolic instructions, a.37"38 105'16- *>-a; (iii.) foes, H7-U. ai-so ]9«-*. !»• so. 87-39 . (iy. ) pal.ablcs of the kingdom, 131"52; (v.) relationships within the kingdom, 182-7I°-a 201"" 21s,"a7 221-8-8"14; (vi.) woes, 23; (vii.) eschatology, 24"-11 *-*• »■■ 25. See p. 75.

apostolic preacher or church, the echo of the years that followed Christ's death, not the very voice of Jesus. Zahn attributes these less to inexactness upon the part of the writer of the gospel, than to the free reproduction of Christ's words in the apostolic preaching upon which the author drew, although he must be considered to have more than once abbreviated his sources (e.g. at l13). Such examples of free handling are obvious and familiar; they may be safely taken as an irreducible minimum. Indeed, without falling into arbitrariness, criticism may add, as it has often added, considerably to their number and extent. And if this be the case with Mark, the most primitive and free from tendency among the gospels, how much more likely is it that such features are to be found in the later books. "Even Luke, who, of the three, stands nearest to us children of the West and of the new age, in virtue of his more national talent, education, and purpose, even he could not have said of his work, Tov avyypa<peco<; epyov ev <&s iirpd^Oij eitrelv (Lucian, Hist. Corner. 39)." See further, Zahn's essay in ZKWL (1888), pp. 581-596, on "Der Geschichtschreiber und sein Stoff im NT." As for Judaism, Mr. Schechter observes, it "bowed before truth, but it never made a covenant with facts only because they were facts. History had to be re-made, and to sanctify itself before it found its way into the sacred annals " (Studies in Judaism, p. xxv).

This fact of their practical motive helps also to explain why the personal element appears to have been blanched away from the gospels. "We cannot discover any expression of interior feelings which the writers experienced in painting the life of their Master. There is no enthusiasm, no cry of admiration, no private reflections" (Didon). As we read their pages, it requires some effort to think of their authors at all. They are not readily conceived as compositions skilfully drawn up and executed. While characteristics and tendencies are betrayed in each, betrayed sometimes without very much disguise, none of them gives any direct clue to the individuality of the author's mind. When the Johannine authorship is accepted, the fourth gospel forms a doubtful exception; but there can be no mistake about the others. Even in the case of the third gospel, where tradition has done most, not only for the question of the authorship, but also for the personal traits and character of the author, the standpoint, notwithstanding, is hardly less objective than in its predecessors. This apparent absence of personal colouring points back to one cause. It is not due to the overmastering impression of the contents, nor to any supposed transmission of Divine truth in its highest phases through channels which must lie apart from the media of human feelings and ideas, as though reflection were alien to inspiration; nor are the authors' names concealed as were those of the Gottes Freunde in the fourteenth century, lest pride of authorship should form a spiritual peril. These anonymous gospels1 simply represent to a large extent the final shape given to collections of evangelic matter which had been previously composed by and for members belonging to the general body of the Christian societies. The evangelic writings, as a consequence, are almost entirely lacking in the personal interest which attaches to individuality of authorship. Their object and environment told against it. But they are personal in a wider sense. They can all be identified with the utterances of reflection, emotion, and practical experience throughout the circles of early Christianity, as these were stirred by the person and the spirit of Jesus (cp. especially Holsten's Die syn. Evangclien nach der Form ihres Inhalts, 1886).2

Thus, either as historical narratives or as letters, the NT writings are an explicit result of living intercourse and mutual service within the Christian communities. IlapdSocrK and fiapripiov are the two words that characterise their con

1 For some early difficulties (quod nee ab ipso scriptum constat nee ab eius apostolis, sed longo post tempore a quibusdam incerti nominis viris) raised by this feature of the gospels, see tho interesting correspondence of Augustine and Fanstus (especially xxxii., xxxiii.). See p. 75.

2 Holsten's particular views, however, are less convincing than his general method of treatment. The dogmatic principles which differentiate the gospels are, in his opinion, threefold—(a) the Pauline; (6) the Jewish-Christian; and (c) the anti-Pauline; but recent criticism has moved away from such emphasis upon tendencies within the early church.

« AnteriorContinuar »