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propaganda; to Hellenism with its philosophical temper, especially—as the mention of Philip implies (1222)—in Asia Minor (Euseb. HE, iii. 31. 3, v. 24. 2); also the questions of baptism (3) and the Lord's supper (6). These and numerous other burning topics of interest and difficulty in the early church are reflected, as the first century drew to a close, in this notable philosophy of early Christian religion, “a treatise illustrated by history” (Liddon), and are essential to its interpretation. Hawthorne warns the readers of his Twice-Told Tales, that if they would see anything in the book they must read it "in the clear brown twilight atmosphere in which it was written; if opened in the sunshine, it is apt to look exceedingly like a volume of blank pages.” The fourth gospel also must be read in the light of its age and environment; not as an attempt to write a concrete biography of Jesus, but as the outcome of reflection upon the past in the evening of primitive Christianity.
The point to be pressed then is, that the principle of this historical method is sound, and that it is silently and necessarily assumed as a criterion in all serious work upon early Christian life and literature. What requires to be brought out is the need of mental adjustment to the preliminary and somewhat subtle task of regarding not merely the epistles, but also the NT historical narratives (more specially the gospels), not as they superficially stand, but as successive although indirect records of an experience and consciousness within the early church, which has itself to be partially deciphered from their contents. Curiously enough, it is within this consciousness again that one of the supreme clues lies for determining the situation and significance of these very records. Such an aspect, by which book and age are correlated, is not the point of historical research. But it is one point in it, and a point that requires attention. Round an author in those days were living men and women. He wrote of the past, indeed, with a straight and high purpose in his mind. But he wrote for this contemporary circle, with its pressure and its tendencies; the truer he was to his function as a writer, the less he could be indifferent to these.
1 But the fourth gospel was not the sole reservoir of this novel method of teaching Outside of it, before as well as subsequently, a tradition flourished which may be called “Johannine,” i.e. a circle of expressions and ideas of which traces are to be found in the synoptists no less than in Ignatius and the pastoral epistles. This evidence points to a common phase of thought of which the fourth gospel was the supreme and classical product, but not to a literary connection between such different writers (von der Goltz, TU, xii. 3, pp. 118 f., 168 f.).
At the same time the bearing of this principle upon the NT writers as a source of deviation, is considerably less than might be looked for. It is not nearly so much, at any rate, as is evident in the case of their contemporaries, Tacitus and Josephus. The difference between them, indeed, is so great in degree, that it becomes almost a difference in kind; a fact which lends some plausibility to the position of those who object to ranking the NT historians within the same class as those or other ancient writers. It is tempting, certainly, to isolate them, and apply different standards to their productions. For, as one may be reminded, the relation of a narrator to the subject of his narrative has two possible phases. In the one case he has facts; then the main problem concerns his method of treating them. In the other, he is often dependent upon imagination and inventive power for even the so-called facts which underlie his pages. We are familiar with instances of the former class, in which, through passion or prejudice, ancient writers failed to do justice to their subject (Tacit. Ann. 1), or in which the work of modern historians has been perceptibly dominated, not so much by a strong interest in the past for its own sake, as by an irrepressible desire to covertly exalt, or warn, or vilify some aspect of the men and things by which they were themselves surrounded. Good instances of the latter class again are to be found even in the later Jewish apocrypha and apocalyptic. In that field authors seem to have used the licence of imagination in order to freely handle past events, and thereby clothe, or prove, or support ideas and tendencies which belonged to their own age. By neither propensity can it be fairly said that the NT historical writers were unduly biassed. Their world and work indeed lay within the sphere of conditions which made excesses of that kind possible; but their very juxtaposition with such forms
of literary violence and vagrancy shows the almost infinitesimal extent to which their writings were affected. Infinitesimal, that is to say, when one speaks comparatively. For the amount of such a contemporary legitimate influence, even if it be small, is real;? and the demand for an estimate of it is compatible with a desire to do the fullest justice to the historicity and trustworthiness of the total narrative. Many estimates of the gospels and their contents really remind one of the phrase with which it used to be said the older school of political economists opened their argument: “Suppose a man upon a desert island.” No discussion on the gospels will lead to satisfactory results by any similar isolation of the literature from the interests and activities of the apostolic age. The histories of the NT are no abstract pictures of the past, and their contents are to be rightly orientated only by a criticism which stands between and beyond the conception of
1Cp. Bruce, Apologetics, pp. 448–465 ; Cone, Gospel Criticism, pp. 337–355 ; and Jülicher, Einl. $ 29, “Der Wert der Syn. als Geschichtsquellen,” a wellbalanced discussion : also Zahn (Einl. ii. p. 220 f.). After praising Matthew's gospel for the magnitude of conception and the able management of a great theme, which make it superior to any other historical work in the OT or the NT, or even in the literature of antiquity, the last-named proceeds to point out with equal justice that it does not represent a historical work, in the Greek sense of the term. “Was man Geschichte erzählen nennt, versucht Mt kaum.” Cp. his instances (pp. 286-289), from Matthew's treatment of the stories and the sayings of Jesus, quoted to illustrate the author's free handling and polemical purpose. “The work is a historical apology of the Nazarene and his church against Judaism.” Such a position is true, so far. But it requires to be supple. mented (a) by a widening of the writing's scope. The audience in view probably embraced much greater variety of feeling and opinion than was to be found in a purely Jewish-Christian circle. (6) Also the sovereign freedom with which the author handled his material, is considerably more thorough and detailed (e.g. Weizsäcker and Jülicher). For a standard discussion of the whole subject, op. Holtzmann's Synopt. Evglien. pp. 377–514, and for an essay upon the gospels as the outcome of early Christian apologetic, Wernle, ZNW (1900), pp. 42-65. Wendland (Beiträge, “Philo und die kynische-stoische Diatribe," pp. 1-6), after defining “Diatribe” as “die in zwanglosem, leichtem Gesprächston gehaltene, abgegrenzte Behandlung eines einzelnen philosophischen, meist ethischen Satzes," proceeds to point out that the polemic and conversational tone easily led to the sermon or address. “Und wenn neutestamentlichen Schriften manche Begriffe und Ideen, Stilformen und Vergleiche mit der philosophischen Litteratur gemeinsam sind, so ist es nicht ausgeschlossen, dass die Diatribe schon auf Stücke der urchristlichen Litteratur einen gewissen Einfluss ausgeübt hat, den man sich nicht einmal litterarisch vermittelt zu denken braucht."
them as mere annals, and the equally crude notion that they are the free products of an inventive imagination.
It follows that if the favourite paradox be legitimate“the epistles are also gospels ”- there is equally a sense in which it might be said that “the gospels are also epistles.” As the preface to the third gospel openly indicates, the immediate instruction and impulse which it was the function of the oral teaching and consequently of the epistles) to supply, tended to pass into another religious need, namely, acquaintance with the events and teaching which formed tho basis of the faith. This need was finally met not by catechists, but by authors. The epistles were reinforced by the gospels in the common task of religious edification, and in the latter writings traces of their audience and object are still to be discovered, e.g. the comments of the evangelist (Mk 330 719, etc.), their explanations and notes, their obvious wish to correct misunderstandings and prevent misconceptions, their selection of homiletic material, their grouping of narratives and sayings to throw light on contemporary difficulties and facilitate mnemonic retentiveness. The recollection of this intrinsic element will serve to correct any extravagant use of a popular and modern theory which plays off the gospels against the epistles, the former being hailed as undogmatic, impervious to theological reflection, the undefiled sources of genuine Christianity. This tendency has sprung, it is true, from a natural and wholesome reaction. But the reaction has gone quite far enough, when the gospels are practically regarded as if they were records composed during the lifetime of Jesus, or as if they contained an absolutely objective representation of his teaching, and could be compared—in point of value and authority-with the other writings of the NT, considerably to the disadvantage of the latter. There is a sense in which a prima facie view like this has a truth of its own. But it is a mischief and disaster to imagine that even the gospels are insulated from contemporary extraneous influences, or that their world is inherently different from the world of the epistles. Gospels and epistles alike are children of what is substantially the same age. They worked for similar ends. They differ utterly in form, but it is a historical rupture to make out of this difference a clever and false antithesis, finding in the one the religion of Jesus Christ, and in the other the Christian religion. Apart from the fact that the extant gospels, and even the main sources from which they derive, were not composed until at least nine or ten of the chief epistles had been written, the facts of their age and the feelings of their authors could not be wholly obliterated from their pages; and certainly they cannot be passed over in a study of these pages. In undervaluing or absolutely ignoring their subjective and didactic elements, there is neither faith nor philosophy. One might even say, for example, that Peter speaks through Mark's gospel no less than through his own epistle, certainly as authentically as in the speeches attributed to him in Acts; also that the third gospel, no less than the Thessalonian epistles, has in its pages something of the breath and mind of Paul. In fact, the slightest consideration of the circumstances in which the epistles and the gospels were composed, will keep in check a method which is a specious and well-intentioned endeavour to conserve the essence of Christianity, and yet implies an unhistorical divorce between two correlative portions of the NT literature.
The form and substance of these literary products in the dawn of Christianity was determined by the nature of their aim. As the Christian preaching began to extend not only to a second generation, but even previously to non-Jewish audiences and the region of pagan difficulties, the simple evidence of eye-witnesses had to develop fresh methods. Two of these predominated, and survive in different forms. One consisted in exhibiting the historical record of Jesus' words and life. By means of this, some credible and plain evidence was afforded for the historical basis underlying the new faith. Every catechumen and convert would receive some such instruction, and be taught to find within the words of Jesus laws for his own conduct. This evangelic tradition expanded in subsequent years, and from it the gospels rose. But the other method proved a salutary supplement. It contained the appeal to experience, the exhibition of the new faith as a