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the two latter methods presuppose the first; and the first involves this need and practice of accurate chronological handling. To ascertain the relative order of the NT writings in general, to take them up one by one as they were given to the early Christian communities, to approach a document as it lies, warm and alive, within its special period, to let each successively make its characteristic and precise impression upon the mind, to follow the varied courses, thus lighted up, of the early Christian reflection as it worked upon the facts of the evangelic consciousness, to trace the varied implicates of the Christian spirit in their evolution—this, a mental discipline to start with, is an invaluable apprenticeship for acquiring some keener insight not merely into the individual contributions and traits of special writers and writings, but also into the sweep and scope of what is "beyond question the most momentous fact in history, the effect produced by the teaching of Jesus and his disciples," ? so far as that effect falls within the scope of the NT literature.
Such a rearrangement of the literature as that offered in this volume is therefore intended to serve as a sort of map. With its aid the reader will be enabled more successfully to make his way into and throughout the varied phases of the apostolic age in natural succession, as well as to gain a standpoint for any further surveys of its theology or organisation. A distinct effort is needed if the modern mind is to realise the situation of any NT document. There is always work to be done in the way of rendering explicit circumstances and conditions which are vitally important for the interpretation
1 One must demur, however, to descriptions of the NT literature as “the documents formally put before the world by a society-as adequate accounts of its own origin, and tests of its future teaching and practice” (Lock, Exegesis of the NT, p. 10), or of an individual book like Acts as “an authorised account of the deeds of apostles” (Robinson, EBi, i. 675). This is the ecclesiastical or canonical standpoint, not the historical. It reflects the mind not so much of the original writers of the NT literature as of the later generations who used that literature for the wider purposes of the catholic church.
2 Goldwin Smith. On the richness of present NT research in the matter of historical points of view, see Harnack's remarks, Contemp. Rev. (1886), pp. 221-225.
of a writing, and yet are mostly taken for granted in its pages. To bring these assumed, sub-conscious facts together is a task awaiting the historical imagination at almost every step, part of its province including the mastery of those facts and relationships which are implied in the structure and connection of a given record, and with which one must sedulously learn to feel at home. A subsidiary and provisional aid to this can be furnished often by a study of the documents in question. History, as Niebuhr used to declare, has two methods for supplying the deficiencies of her sources; she has criticism and the divining faculty. Plainly, both must work together. Indeed, in exegesis and interpretation, criticism constantly depends upon the faculty of intuition. But, on the other hand, the divining power of the historical imagination cannot see to contribute its final and special gift of reconstruction until criticism has attempted as far as possible to discharge its preliminary task and arrange the materials in some approximately reliable scheme. Appreciation of past ages is frequently hindered by nothing more serious than some trifling amount of obscurity which has been allowed to remain secreted in the traditional presentment of the materials for modern study. An equally slight alteration of position will occasionally put the observer in the way of considerable results. That is the hope and aim of the present edition with regard to the NT. Here, no less than elsewhere, the very sequence of writings is at times full of significance ; any literary method which promotes the comparative study and use of these writings has a value of its own for the larger work of historical and religious appreciation, in forcing attention to some aspects and relations of the NT which lie in shadow, as well as in bringing the mind closer to the original design and actual shape of the literature in question. Within the NT, of all places, one cannot afford to dispense with any plain mechanical assistance to the imaginative faculty, as it exercises its function of quickly reaching, carefully deciphering, and accurately following these modes of earlier and different thought. Voir c'est avoir. Even an optical aid may prove at times of curious service to the mind,
1“ If the critical education of the historian suffice, he can lay bare, under every detail of architecture, every stroke in a picture, every phrase in a writing, the special sensation whence detail, stroke, or phrase had issue ; he is present at the drama which was enacted in the soul of artist or writer; the choice of a word, the brevity or length of a sentence, the nature of a metaphor, the accent of a verse, the development of an argument-everything is a symbol to him ; while his eyes read the text, his soul and mind pursue the continuous development and the everchanging succession of the emotions and conceptions out of which the text has sprung" (H. A. TAINE).
What is required, then, is some displacement within the canonical stereotyped order of the NT. As it stands, in either a Greek or an English edition, this order was compiled for different purposes and on different principles from those of modern historical research. The object was palpably didactic. The churches naturally endeavoured to arrange the literature in order to bring out the rise and progress of the Christian spirit and society. From the third council of Carthage in A.D. 397, a general arrangement appears to have prevailed, which has been reproduced from Jerome's Vulgate in our English Bibles, with one great change. Three unities or groups of writings—the “ gospels,” the “ epistles of Paul” with or without Hebrews, and the “catholic epistles ”— were massed together, closed by the Apocalypse. Roughly speaking, this may be described as the dominant order. The chronological principle, so far as it was considered at all, evidently referred to the order of the events narrated or presupposed ; hence, e.g., the book of Acts often came between the gospels and the following epistles. Still, it was usage, not law, that really determined the sequence. East and West differed considerably upon this as upon weightier topics; and the scheme remained unfixed, indefinite. For a long time, indeed, one or two books seem to move up and down the canon in quite an arbitrary fashion.
These and other variations, however, in the canonical order of the NT writings belong to the history of the canon rather than to a study of the writings themselves. They represent interests and tendencies quite other than chronological. In the group of the gospels, e.g. Matthew and John are occasionally put first, as their authors were considered to be personal disciples or apostles of Jesus. The connection of Mark and Luke with the historical Christ was secondary; they were merely apostolic men, and as a result their gospels were put later (Tertull. adv. Marc. iv. 2). Other variations are less obvious in motive. In the group of Pauline letters it is not certain, even in Marcion's arrangement, whether a chronological principle is at work at all. Other interests, at any rate, predominate in his and other catalogues, as in the Muratorian fragment, where Paul's epistles to the seven churches are grouped together in order to precede those addressed to private individuals. Similarly with the phalanx of the “ catholic epistles.” The fairly common order-James, 1 Peter, John—may be a reflection of (Gal 29) the relative rank assigned to the trio of supposed authors in the judgment of the early church. In other cases the arrangement-Judas preceding James—probably echoes the successive admission of each to canonicity. Among the groups themselves, the Pauline epistles and the “ catholic ” change places between Acts and the Apocalypse, while the last-named may be said almost invariably to close the NT canon,2 a position
Gregory's “Prolegomena to Tischendorf's NT,” 111. 1. pp. 131–140, De librorum ordine ; Laurent, p. 41 f. ; Zahn, GK, i., pp. 60-80, ii. pp. 343– 383 ; S. Berger, Histoire de la Vulgate pendant les premiers siècles du moyen age (1893), pp. 301-306, 331–342; Westcott, History of NT Canon (Appendix D); Studia Biblica, iii. (1891), pp. 217–325 ; Jülicher : Eint. pp. 442-445 ; Nestle, Einf. 128–132 (E. Tr. 161 f., etc.); also the closing essay in Bovon's Jésus et l'Eglise des premiers jours. The lingering indefiniteness of the canonical order is curiously illustrated by a phrase of Athanasius (Festal. epp. xxxix.), who introduces his arrangement of the biblical literature with the words xpňoquai προς σύστασιν της έμαυτού τόλμης κτλ.
? At the close of Dante's pageant of the NT writers (Purgatorio, xxix.) there appears
"Behind them all, One single old man, sleeping as he came,
With a shrewd visage"; i.e. John, the author of the Apocalypse.
naturally suggested by its contents and the aptness of its conclusion (Apoc 2218. 19).
In short, hardly any attempt seems to have been made to arrange even the letters of Paul in chronological order, much less to determine the date of each writing separately. When all had come to be gathered into a whole, the principle of arrangement varied : a desire to separate controverted and accepted writings (as in the Muratorian fragment), a specifically theological intention, some regard to the relative length of the epistles, or to the dignity and rank possessed by the different churches to which they were addressed, probably some idea of parallelism to the OT or symmetry with it, possibly considerations of authorship. The usage throughout the churches was quite inexact: the principles that determined it divergent.
In view of the practical ends of the canon, little exception can be taken to this procedure of the church. So far, a modern reader might cheerfully acquiesce in the dictum of Spinoza : documentorum causas nihil curamus. But when the question comes to be one of analytic criticism as a prelude to some historical synthesis, it is no longer an adequate method to take the literature exactly as it happens to stand. To acquire any grasp of the problems of origin, composition, and independence, some critical base is required, and this must be sought in a rearrangement of the documents. Otherwise, investigation is simply handicapped. It is lured to ignore the relative positions of the leading records, and thus to miss the sense of their order and proportions. For the canonical order of the NT is not even a neutral medium for such study.
For subjective reasons, e.g. Luther, followed by Tyndale, placed Hebrews, James, Judas, and the Apocalypse disapprovingly at the end of the N.T. after “the true and certain capital books."
2 Sicut post legem prophetae, et post prophetas hagiographi, ita post Evangelium apostoli, et post apostolos doctores ordine successerunt: Hugo de S. Vict. De Script. 6, though “doctores” carries us beyond the NT canon.
3A curious arrangement seems to occur in the Apostolic Constitut. (ii. 57): “Let our acts be read, and the letters of our fellow-worker Paul ... and afterwards let a deacon or presbyter read the gospels.” But this is probably a mere ecclesiastical injunction.