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The rest of that literature may be said to lie in the wake of Paulinism, but only in the qualified sense already noted. None of the writings can be described as directly derivative from it.
(6) A cognate reflection, arising from what has been already urged, is that the printed order of the writings must not be hastily identified with a dogmatic or religious progress. For example, the chronological arrangement is not a diplomatic attempt to exaggerate, by a sort of revived Marcionitism, the value of Paul's epistles, or to displace the gospels from their premier position as Christian sources. The connection between the Pauline letters and the gospels is too delicate a problem to be solved on purely chronological presuppositions. How far the facts and sayings in the synoptics have been affected ? by the statements of the epistles or the influence which they exerted, is a question which really lies outside the province of the present attempt. Bias against such a theory or in favour of it, does not enter into one's commission. Here documents are treated as documents. The scientific study of the NT must begin—wherever it may finish—with the serious and thorough estimate of its extant records, and it is exclusively for the sake of this that the present arrangement has been compiled. To call attention to the factswhich in this case include the literary priority of the Pauline epistles—is the sole business of literary chronology. An
1 There is a growing disposition in the best criticism of to-day to discount either anti- or pro-Pauline tendencies even in the synoptic gospels. By the time that these came to be written it is probable that the pascent catholicism of the early churches formed a prevailing atmosphere in which the earlier Paulinism only survived as one of several elements. Besides, a number of ideas and expressions may have been the common possession of early Christianity previous to 60 A.D., though from the accident of their preservation solely in the Pauline letters we dub them specifically “Pauline."
2 Tendency-criticism, as I have already said, is a detected idol ; but so is the literalism which would read the NT out of all connection with its period. Beyond dispute, the whole meaning of historical criticism implies the existence of such forces and feelings as those which the older critics of the Tübingen school shaped into too rigid a mould. Their main error lay in neglecting personalities for ideas, and in ascribing to deliberate volition what was for the most part either the unconscious effect of prepossession, or the outcome of popular prejudice shared by a large body of the early Christians.
estimate of that priority, in its bearings and limitations, belongs to other methods of research, and to another province of inquiry. As regards the idea of a logical progress of development, the Pauline epistles illustrate again the truth of that inevitable and familiar axiom, that succession does not necessarily coincide with a progressive or a retrograde series. Priority is not equivalent to superiority. The NT presents no graduated scale upwards or downwards. Development, here as well as elsewhere, is not synonymous with ordered and orderly advance on every side. While the Pauline letters apparently give the keynote to the whole, in reality the subsequent literature indicates a wealth of thought and experience which can be construed neither as an expansion of Paul's original conceptions nor as a declension from them. The same is true of the other groups. Further, the printed order is apt again to hide the fact that phases of thought may have been for some time in existence before any expression of them occurs in literature. The synoptic gospels and the fourth gospel are instances in point. That one book is dated some years after another does not prove the greater maturity of the former. Nor—to take an opposite illusion does the religious authority of writings in the NT vary absolutely with their proximity to the third and fourth decades of the first century. It is often difficult to conjecture why one book came to be written so early as it was actually written, difficult also to imagine how another was not composed at a much earlier period. Metaphors are notoriously unsafe ; but one is tempted to compare the cognate writings of the NT not so much to the locks of a canal, or to the waves of a flowing tide, as to the various branches of a delta. To speak without figure, it is risky to base judgments of development and maturity upon arguments which are mainly drawn from chronological appearances. Affinities of thought and feeling do not necessarily accompany chronological proximity. Writings that belong to the same school of experience and reflection may be separated by years, even by whole decades, from one another; while, given conflicting interests and a scattered area, a single epoch will often produce works of quite a divergent spirit, reactionary as well as progressive. One of the most salutary items to be remembered in this connection is that the Apocalypse, Acts, and the epistle of Clem. Rom, are substantially contemporaneous documents; which is almost as significant as the fact that in the OT literature, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Deutero-Isaiah, with their deviating ideas and conceptions, represent what are practically contemporaneous phases of Jewish religious development.
(c) Finally, the form of such an edition as this might convey the impression that the letters of Paul were the literary pioneers of Christianity—as though, like Coleridge's mariners, they were
“The first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.” Undoubtedly their value is capital. For all intents and purposes these letters give what is practically the earliest and most adequate expression of the new faith as it shaped itself in the mind of many during the first generation. But, as has been already remarked, the precise relation of Paulinism to contemporary Christianity is another of those questions in the discussion of which a chronological arrangement of the literature fails to supply a complete answer by itself, and indeed may prove somewhat misleading. Two facts have to be borne in mind. (i.) While the Pauline epistles were the first and incomparably the finest, they were not the sole literary products between 30 and 60 A.D. These years cannot have been altogether a “ silent sea.” To say nothing of apocalyptic fragments and early Christian songs, there are indications that, although hardly any definite traces have been preserved, letters must have been gradually employed during this period as a means of strengthening Christian intercourse and intelligence. Evidence for this is to be found, e.g., in allusions to ÈTILOTO aí quotatikai (2 Co 31), letters of commendation or introduction, as a feature of church-life (Ac 1827) which Paul found in existence. This primitive Christian literature
1 A specimen is preserved in Ro 161-20 (cp. below). For an interesting Jewish instance of the practice, cp. the epistles of credit and authority given by the
was, like the primitive ceramic art of Hellas, comparatively private. Upon vases intended for the household's use, painting first lavished its grace and skill; and in letters for the quieter purposes of intercourse, the literary spirit was employed by Christians before the aim and scope of it became enlarged. In the nature of things, the use of epistles, taken over from the habits of Judaism, and especially Alexandrian Judaism (e.g. Jer 291. 25. 31, epp. of Jerem. and Baruch, also 2 Mac 11. 10),2 preceded evangelic narratives. The former were occasional and immediate in character, the latter—Xóryla, Sinyńceus, åtrouvnuoveúuata—imply a rather more advanced epoch, when the early advent of Jesus was no longer a momentary expectation, and his life had come into greater importance and prominence. Nevertheless, by 60 A.D. at least, such notes and collections may have begun to exist in rough form. The current was at any rate setting unmistakably in that direction. Possibly, during the time of Paul's later literary activity, written evangelic narratives were in existence here and there, especially within the primitive Palestinian churches. The primary need for these is to be found in the fact that a new generation was rising, dependent for their acquaintance with the history of Jesus upon a fast-diminishing company of eyewitnesses, in the rapid extension of the Christian communities, and even in the mission activities of the Palestinian disciples. To these impulses there must also be added another which sprang from them before long, namely, the need of translating the tradition from the original Aramaic vernacular into Greek. That attempts must have been made to meet such requirements is inherently probable (Blass, PG, pp. 21-24; Wright, Composition of the Four Gospels, pp. 1-31). It is also corroborated by the surviving gospels. Even the earliest of these leaves no impression of tentativeness on the mind; there is nothing of that comparative lack of precision and definite outlines which is often felt in the pioneers of any department in literature. They represent the midsummer, not the spring, of their literary cycle. The subject had been already—perhaps often handled, even before Mark's gospel took its present shape; although these earlier narratives, like the sources and authorities of Tacitus in the Annales, have disappeared. Luke's preface proves that our first three gospels are “first” for us, not absolutely “first." They were the best, not the only narratives. It is still far from being probable that the literature, of which they are the survivors, and which they seem to have speedily antiquated, could have existed as far back as the sixth decade; nevertheless, upon any reasonable criticism of the synoptists, their sources and substance must have partially existed in written form by the opening of the seventh decade. “Mox etiam libros de Jesu compositos esse puto, vel in eosdem usus vel Theophilis (qui profecto multi fuerunt) destinatos, ut intra viginti fere annos a Christi excessu jam copia quaedam talium librorum exstaret. Erat enim aetas illa litterarum plena, novaque religio minime intra illiteratam plebem manebat.”1 This is probably to push matters too far back. But there is evidence sufficient
Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to Paul (Ac 92 225). The term “epistle,” however, is as inadequate to express the contents of writings like Romans and Ephesians, as is “satire” when applied to the poems of Lucilius or Juvenal.
1 On the desire for instruction, at a later epoch, cp. Polyk. ad Phil. iii. 2, xiii. 1, 2. Up to the close of the canon the epistle retains its place as a means of enforcing discipline (3 Jn), and of conveying religious instruction (Jud 3). Cp. Batiffol, Anciennes Litt. Chréliennus, "La Littératur Grecque," pp. 1-24, and Deissmann, Bibelstudien, pp. 190–252.
2 E.g. Ac 2821, nueis oŰTE ypájuara trepi goû dečáuela årò tñs 'Iovdalas. The Christian use in Ac 15, 164; Clem. Rom. lxiii. The famous epistle of Aristeas to Philokrates has been called “a predecessor, in form, of the larger NT epistles.” On the other hand, the original literary form introduced by Christianity was the gospel.
1 Blass (Acta Apostolorum, p. 5), who recently has argued for the composi. tion even of Luke's gospel (!) before 60, and of written narratives before 50 A.D. (vide his editions of “ Acts” and “ Luke,” PG, pp. 31, 33-52, and article in Exp. Ti. vii. 565). Dr. Sanday (Bampton Lect. p. 283) and Professor Bruce (ErGT, i. 24, 25) seem inclined to agree that the great central portion of the tradition in the synoptic gospels existed in some fixed shape before the fall of Jerusalem. “Die Evangelien gehören ihrem wesentlichen Inhalte nach noch der ersten, jüdischen Epoche des Christenthums an, jener kurzen Epoche, die wir als die paläontologische bezeichnen können,” Harnack, Das Wesen des Christentums (1900), p. 14; ETr. p. 21. Add Bacon, INT. 203.