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volume is one of the most outspoken representatives, the outlines of the NT literary order have been brought into greater distinctness, and now approximate more nearly to finality. The limits within which doubt and guess are tenable have been sensibly contracted; and in this way an attempt like the present cannot be pronounced either premature or illegitimate, although several of its problems still remain complex and unmapped. Of the individual documents, the majority bear so plainly the date and character of their
origin, that there is little risk of an uncertain answer to the · question,“ Whose image and superscription is this ?" It is only
the minority that resemble defaced coins upon which the marks of place and time either have turned illegible or else have never been cut at all. In the order adopted in the present edition, were Ephesians and 1 Peter put (say) ten or twenty years later, Acts brought down nearer to the opening of the second century than I have been able at present to place it, and Matthew (Luke ?) similarly thrown back, these slight changes would be almost sufficient to represent an arrangement of the NT literature upon which a large body of liberal criticism at the present day is agreed with practical unanimity.
The prospects of such a healthy state of matters in NT criticism depend, however, upon the straightforward rejection of any eirenicon like that which is occasionally offered in this country by some influential writers (e.g. Gore, Lux Mundi,10 pp. xvii f., xxix f., 240 f., 258 f., etc.; and Driver, Introd. Lit. 07, p. xvii f.), who, conceding the rights of criticism within the province of the OT, decline to admit the legitimacy of similar historical research in the NT literature, upon the ground either that the latter collection possesses certain qualities of finality and authority which exempt it from being judged by the canons of ordinary treatment, or that it was “ produced under very different historical conditions." This rôle of the theological Canute is due to excellent motives; but it must be pronounced not merely indefensible but injurious to the best interests of faith and truth. The compromise rests on a misapprehension, and is as unnecessary as it is illegitimate. It has no basis in the facts which come under discussion. The condition of early Christianity in the first and second centuries, it is true, was such as to render the limits within which tradition could be modified considerably less than in the older Semitic literature. In the latter we often deal with centuries where in the former the unit is a decade. Besides, the contexture and vitality of the early Christian communities naturally made testimony upon the whole less ambiguous and remote than in the long spaces of Hebrew development. But the comparative brevity of this period and its internal excellence do not imply that its record must ipso facto be strictly historical, nor do they absolutely preclude the activity of such influences as elsewhere modify, develop, and transmute existing traditions under recognised tendencies of human life. As any tyro in NT criticism is aware, during the period between 30 and 130 A.D. such influences were particularly keen, owing to the mental atmosphere of the time and the religious ferment excited by the new faith. Between the quality of the testimony in the OT and that of the NT the difference is patent and material; still it is a difference not of kind but of degree. The principles and standards of historical proof are the same, whatever literature be the subject of inquiry, although the scale of application naturally varies in proportion to the character of the materials. Early Christianity does not indeed require the same elaborateness or methods of literary science as are demanded by the condition in which the OT documents have reached the modern scholar; but unless the character of the first and second centuries A.D. be estimated by historical methods, in as thorough and free a spirit as the age of Samuel or Isaiah, it will continue to remain a province for arbitrary guess-work, and to present the average reader with a series of writings whose sense and connection lie at the mercy of dogmatic or devotional fantasy. Similarly, to hold that the religion enshrined in the NT is final in substance and supreme in quality, does not require its adherents to rail off that literature nervously and sharply as ex hypothesi a sacred enclosure, nor have those who do so the right of assuming that this is an essential or permanent position. Unique contents do not imply unique setting, any more than piety of character carries with it physical, moral, or mental perfection. "Exquer Tòv Onoavpòv TOÛTOV v do tpakívous OKEVEOLV. The historicity of the tradition embodied in the NT literature is far too solid to require privileged treatment or to need exaggerated claims on its behalf. Indeed, its excellence becomes visible and intelligible only as the forms in which it has been preserved are allowed to pass the test imposed by the ordinary canons of historical and literary science when these are fairly applied; any attempt to preclude this analysis as irrelevant or dangerous must be firmly set aside. Such attempts read more or less into the literature: they do not read it for itself. A concern to establish the historicity and continuity of the faith is praiseworthy; but when it assumes the advocate's garb and intrudes upon the study of early Christian literature, it seems apt to affect rather prejudicially even admirable work that is professedly written upon critical principles (cp. ICC, “ Romans," p. xli, “ Luke,2” p. v.). For the historical student of that literature it is safer to assume that the categories of the three great C.'s do not exist. His work is merely with the presuppositions and embryonic phases of church and creed and canon, nor can even the first of these be postulated by him except in a most modified and unmodern sense. As the facts that lead to these emerge, his task draws to a close. To drag them back into the fabric of that early age is not merely to naïvely beg the whole question at issue, but to court anachronisms and solecisms on every side, and to conclude with results which are almost as pathetic and incongruous as those produced by Voltaire's application of the French “unities” to the Shakespearian drama.
1 Hort, as usual, occupies the correct standpoint (Hulsean Lectures, 1894, pp. 175, 176): “No line is possible between what has come to men, and their interpretation of what has come to them. . . . The words and facts of gospel history and of apostolic history, as historical and literary phenomena, demand to be subjected to historical and literary criticism."
is alone able to reach a position in regard to the NT literature which satisfies the interests alike of faith and scholarship. In pursuance of this course, the following edition has been arranged. On a first glance, probably, the impression left by it may be disconcerting and chaotic, a bewildering sense of eddies and currents running vaguely through those early years; but this feeling of discomposure is inevitable in the nature of the case. It proceeds not merely from the contrast and familiarity of the canonical order, but also from the fact that the real connection of the writings, as well as the historical movement in which they appeared, both lie below the surface and must be made out from a study and comparison of the records. Besides, literature is like the life of which it forms one expression: neither is apt to be symmetrical. History seldom moves in the rhythm of dialectic, and it is not customary for vitality of belief and action to show itself in a neat elaborated series of pamphlets and discussions. The real growth of such an age as that of early Christianity is to be sought in the confusing and apparently conflicting phases of energy, belief, and morals, whose very richness surges up in records like the NT documents, diverse and scattered. These in their irregular sequence are simply the proof of a wealthy and developing genius in the religion they delineate, a religion which was not less heterogeneous than the Judaism out of which it rose.
As the initial feeling of awkwardness passes, however, it is hoped that some clearer insight into the NT will accrue from the use of this edition along with the canonical order. The alteration of the conventional focus should be justified by such gains as a more genuine and tenable impression of the unity within the NT, and of its advance in institutions, ethics, and ideas, a sense of the larger sky behind the church, a vista of the variations and discrepancies within the apostolic consciousness, decreased liability to error in some lines of research and interpretation, a truer orientation of the documents, and the new mental possession (afforded by print) of some conclusions in regard to the NT which have already commended themselves by their own sense and force. It is
for results like these that one looks in this genetic order of the literature as it lies beside the history. Even if in outward form the arrangement seems rather an unshapely mass, like the body of Oedipus, “not goodly to the sight” (où otrovdalov eis öflv), perhaps it may be added ultimately of the one as of the other in point of practical effectiveness, “ but the gains from it are better than beauty ” (tà dè képen παρ' αυτού κρείσσον' η μορφή καλή).
N.B.-P.18: The extent and influence of metaphor in the genesis of early Christian tradition have been recognised by none more acutely than by Dr. E. A. Abbott in a series of works upon the gospels, notably in his recent article on the “Gospels” (EBi, ii. 1785 f.). Without questioning the legitimacy of the hypothesis, we may, however, challenge several of the detailed applications by which it is used to explain incidents or dissolve apparent discrepancies in the evangelic tradition.-P. 26 f. : A similar practical motive for authorship is plainly avowed in the well-known prologue to Ecclesiasticus (also 2 Esdras 1422-152, Baruch 114). “Non fuit Matthaeo curae historiam ut gesta erat texere sed Christi doctrinam exprimere” (Maldonatus, & Jesuit of the 16th century, quoted by Jülicher, Gleichnissreden Jesu, i. p. 3).-On the relation (p. 28 n.) of the colophon in Matthew (noi inibito iti zia, 728, etc.) to the work of Papias, which also had a fivefold division (Eurypa uuata zivte, Euseb. HE, iii. 38), see Nestle, ZNW, 1900, pp. 252-254. Numerical pragmatism is quite a feature of Matthew as of the fourth gospel.--The “I” and “we” of authorship actually occur (p. 30) in the gospel of Peter, where they are plainly introduced to heighten the claim to apostolic authorship and dignity.-P. 39, line 16: In 719b “ the writer shows his opinion on the controversy at Antioch" (Bacon, INT, 210).-An excellent popular statement of this familiar law (p. 44 n.) may be found in Dr. E. B. Tylor's Anthropology, chap. xv. (“History and Mythology”). As he correctly points out, “it is often possible to satisfy one's self that some story is not really history, by knowing the causes which led to its being invented.” This principle, of course, is the supreme organon of tendency-criticism. For a recent estimate of tendency in the synoptic gospels, probably reflecting the maximum amount, see EBi, ii. 1839-1845.-P. 45, line 14: As already cited on pp. 18-19, the contemporary belief in miracles made it almost inevitable that a miraculous element should exist in stories dating from the first century A.D. “The real miracle would be, if we should find a homely narrative emanating from Galilee in the first century to have originally contained no such elements, and most of the arguments adduced against the value of the Gospels as a contemporary narrative would prove, mutatis mutandis, that St. Bernard's account of the miracles of his friend St. Malachi is spurious" (Conybeare, Monuments of Early Christianity', p. 5). Weinel (Wirkungen des Geistes u. der Geister im nachapost. Zeitalter bis auf Irenäus, 1899, pp. 63-70, 109 f., etc.) brings out with graphic power the naturalness of “miracle" in the world where early Christians thought and lived.- Was the public for which the earliest Christian literature was intended exclusively Christian (p. 51, n. 1)? Or did it embrace an audience such as that contemplated by the author of 2 Macc (224-25), numbering some who were merely interested, possibly sympathetic-like the father of Maitland of Lethington, “civil, albeit not persuaded in religion”? This legitimate question has been raised in several quarters recently : by J. Weiss (Ueber d. Absicht d. Apgeschichte, p. 56) à propos of Acts and Romans ; by Zahn (Einl. ii. pp. 359 f.), who conjectures that Theophilus was a pagan, first converted by reading the third gospel ; and by Wernle, (ZNW, 1900, pp. 42-65), who brings out a distinct “Apologetic "element in the comvosition of all the gospels. With the scanty data at our command, it is not easy to determine whether such an outside reference existed in any or all of these cases, and if so, to what extent. Early Christianity, as a whole, was neither the life of a sequesterer ghetto nor a crusade appealing to the public mind.-P. 62: “ Historical science does not in the least require that a rectilinear development should be made out.