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spirit and a character produced and sustained alike by God's grace in human nature. The statement of this attitude was due primarily and distinctively to Paul. When information about Jesus reached the pagan world, or, for the matter of that, the colonial Jews throughout the empire, “would it not come,” as Dr. Crozier graphically argues, " like a sudden illumination in the darkness, which would leave behind it dim visions of something that would haunt the memory? And yet what proof that there was any truth in it? ... As the actual eye-witnesses (1 Co. 156] sank one by one to their rest, the belief which had arisen in a natural way with them would have died out with them. At each remove the tradition would have become fainter, the evidence more and more hollow and uncertain—the faith of the original believers being more and more untransferable to their descendants of the new generations — until soon it would have been swallowed up again in the great Pagan night that surrounded all.”i The secure method of propagating the faith was to set forth its inner contents ; and it is this aim which prompts the epistolary form and didactic substance of these, the earliest documents of Christianity. The evangelic tradition is presupposed. But it is not prominent. The formal historical base (Lu 11-4) is absent, partly because it was implied, or could be taken for granted, partly owing to the idiosyncrasies of the author, but chiefly on account of the special apologetic emphasis which Paul laid upon the divine Spirit and selfsufficiency of the faith. In his earliest paragraph he stands upon history; but it is the history of the Spirit in Thessalonika (1 Th 15-8), not of Jesus in Palestine. Here, as in his subsequent writings, the distinctive note is an endeavour to ground the guarantee of faith in its moral implicates, along with the argument that these implicates are finally accessible, not in memory, nor in historical research, but in the contemporary Christian experience. He would not have understood the difference between “ Jesus” and “ Christ in heaven ”; but from the modern standpoint it is perfectly true to say that Paul's reasoning rests not on memories of the Galilean Jesus, but on a direct and immediate intuition of that living and exalted Christ, whose holy land is in the human spirit.
1 Hist. Intell. Developm. i. (1897) p. 339. Cp. Mackintosh (Nat. Hist. of Christian Religion, p. 338) on the service of Paul in winning entrance for the ideas of Jesus to the average and sensuous understanding (?).
A brilliant sketch of Essene and Orphic influence, and indeed of the ethnic religious situation at the dawn of Christianity, is given by Zeller, ZwTh (1899), pp. 195–269. For a sympathetic study of Epiktetus, cp. M. F. Picavet, “Les rapports de la religion et de la philosophie en Grèce” (Revue de l'histoire des Religions (1893), pp. 315-344). A readable summary of the Hellenic and Oriental environment may be found in Dr. Gardner's Explor. Evangelica, pp. 325-357.
2 Paul definitely recalls his readers to the remembrance of the historical Jesus (e.g. 1 Co 11%. 24). Yet upon the whole his writings bear out the estimate which views him as translating the Christian principle “into terms of theology, and so, as it were, writing it in large letters on the clouds of heaven" (Caird, Evol. Religion, ii. pp. 200, 201).
The two movements, however, are not independent. Almost parallel to the composition of the Pauline 1 letters ran the transition from the spoken to the written gospel. It must have been gradual: it remains obscure. It was gradual: for the oral teaching subsisted long after the first gospels were put into writing ; indeed, the latter were supplementary to it, and did not by their prestige and use supplant it. It remains obscure: for no accurate record of its motives and stages was preserved by an age which could hardly be conscious of the significance attaching to what was being slowly finished under its eyes. Between the early and the final stages of the transition the epistles lie. Their atmosphere is that of the gospels, in the sense that they presuppose the rudimentary teaching of the narratives which came to be worked up into these histories. It is true that the epistles get the start of the gospels in the order of written composition. But this fact has to be qualified, not only by the consideration just mentioned, but also by the other fact that this slowness to commit the history of Jesus to writing was due less to a suspicion of the written word as an adequate representation, than to the value attached in that age to the spoken and taught word as the means of training and informing the mind. The well-known remark of Papias (oυ γαρ τα εκ των βιβλίων τοσουτόν με ωφελεϊν υπελάμβανον, όσον τα παρά ζώσης φωνής kai nevoions ?) is characteristic of Christianity in the first century as a whole. Men felt nearer to the central facts of the faith as they listened to the teaching and reminiscences of the older disciples, than through the medium of any record or composition by way of litera scripta. Still, the reason of this preference lay in a deeper instinct. For the religion of one who himself wrote nothing and centred everything in the spirit and society of his followers, writing (it was probably felt) must after all be secondary. Before the close of the first century, it is true, Paul's epistles seem to have acquired by their extensive circulation a position of recognised importance and authority, at least in Corinth (Clem. Rom. xlvii), where Zahn (GK. i. pp. 811-839), partly resting upon his absurd date for 2 Peter, argues that a collection of these writings existed by the ninth decade of the century. But even were this established, it would not materially alter the fact that the communication of influence and the maintenance of tradition remained for long oral, so far as its main phases were concerned. Not until far on in the literary development does the beatitude for the reader occur (Apoc 1%), or the emphasis upon a scripture's authority (Jo 2124); naturally it is still later when the Christian writings take their place beside the Hebrew scriptures as topics of discussion and reflection (2 Ti 316, 2 Pet 316). Even the two latter passages are entirely occupied, it is to be noted, with the definition of the writings upon the side of their practical bearing and authority within the Christian societies. The whole movement towards this emphasis upon the written scriptures was accelerated by the parallel tendency in contemporary Judaism, which, after 70 A.D., became more crystallised than ever round the OT canon as its religious standard (cp. the famous passage in 4 Esdras 1421-48). But the comparatively tardy genesis of the historical instinct in the literature of early Christianity was in no sense an uncongenial or surprising feature. It is explicable as we bear in mind the universal adherence to systematic oral testimony, to the reminiscences of eye-witnesses and older men, and not least to the organised worship and social texture of the young Christian societies. That adherence formed the central thread in the strand of early Christianity. As the years passed, however, oral testimony became more and more inadequate, and the task of supplementing it fell to the two great forms of Christian literature, the epistle and the gospel. Both presupposed tradition. Both were the fruit of religious intercourse within the various societies. But in the nature of the case the former had a freer scope; with its superior flexibility and simplicity it established itself as prior in time throughout the churches.
1 Schürer (IIJP, 11. iii. p. 196) notices the languid interest felt by Pharisaic Judaism in history. “It saw in history merely an instruction, a warning, how God ought to be served. Hellenistic Judaism was certainly in a far higher degree interested in history as such."
i Compare the remark in Plato's epistles (vii. 341 c.), where he vindicates personal stimulus and instruction as the best means of learning philosophy : εκ πολλής συνουσίας γιγνομένης περί το πράγμα αυτό και του συζην εξαίφνης οιον από πυρος πηδήσαντος εξαφθέν φως εν τη ψυχή γενόμενον αυτό εαυτό ήδη τρέφει. But the defensive tone of Papias rather suguests that his adherence to oral tradition required some explanation at an age when the written gospels were coming more and more into prominence. See Hilgenfeld on Papias (ZwTh (1901), pp. 151–156).
When attention is directed to facts like these, it is brought home to the mind that the NT literature has to be taken as it rose, not symmetrical, monotoned, adamant-"one entire and perfect chrysolite ”—but out of a historical process, shaped by varying hopes and needs, and drawn from this or that circle of antipathies and affinities. One palmary inference follows, namely, the need of surveying the mental and social conditions under which the different books were composed, as well as of using the books for that survey. Here, as elsewhere in literature (Heinrici, “ Die urchristliche Ueberlieferung u. das NT,” ThA, pp. 323–339), the surrounding of a document is valuable, no less than its subject. Just as a
A writing may actually become a reliable witness to its contemporary period although its references to an earlier period are found to contain some un. historical traits. The historic value of a document does not depend altogether upon its trustworthiness. The primary question is not, “ Are its contents true, or false, or mixed ?” but “How did this writing come to be credited and produced at this particular time? What elements in the age made this literary product natural ?” The fact that a writing, B, gives an idealised picture of some early period, A, may forbid the complete and unhesitating inferences which might be drawn as to the nature of A ; but for all this lack of historicity, it throws fresh light on the period of B's composition and its relation to A (p. 75).
conception of the satiric spirit in its numerons forms is essential to the right understanding of authors like Petronius, Juvenal, and Tacitus, who drew breath in it during the latter half of the first century ; just as the historical writers of the Empire were liable to be affected by the habit of recitation which helped to create for them a literary climate; so is it with the historical narratives of the NT. Their characteristics are intelligible only in the light of the distinctively“ religious” tendencies current in the latter half of the first century (cp. Norden, Antike Kunstprosa, pp. 451-479), for the satisfaction of which they were composed. Consequently some account has to be taken of these as well as of the less obvious features of their mental climate—the prevailing ethnic and Jewish beliefs in the miraculous, the cosmic and psychic ideas of angelology, demonology, and cosmogony, the relation of the material and the spiritual, the Messianic conceptions, the tendencies of current ethics, the popularity of the OT, the apocalyptic effluvia of Judaism, and so forth. Otherwise one will be missing at point after point what ranks as a primary requisite for the study of the NT. For before this life and literature can be strictly estimated, one must look into them and win some feeling of their range and limits, of the successive light and shade, the run and dip of the slopes, the general outlines and broader characteristics of usage and opinion, which are suggested in the extant records. To secure and sustain this mental habit is the sesame of vision and advance. Apart from it, study is generally dull and frequently trifling. Nor is there anything in the method which can be said to be specially elaborate or irksome. Even in the least local writings there is usually some help yielded to the patience and insight of a modern mind bent on reaching the actual incidents and ideas which were at the conception of the writing, or on extricating its antecedents, its relationships, and its neighbourhood.? Obviously this method
* The influence of Jewish angel-worship on early Christianity is traced by Luken in his recent monograph on Michael (1898).
2 Once for all, by way of summary. To realise that the central materials of the gospels were mainly drawn up and collected during the three or four decades