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intelligible, reliable, and applicable to common life; and as they could not love and obey an unknown being, however heavenly and glorious, Jesus had to be set before them as a human character, whose actions and interests were the main channel of his self-expression. How were Christians in the apostolic age to behave to the Jewish authorities, to the current standards and practices of religion, to civil requirements, to outsiders in their district, to their families, to the state? How were they to conduct themselves in missiontours, when arraigned before magistrates, in view of the Jewish law? Answers to these and a host of other more theoretical questions were sought and found in what Jesus was reported to have said and done. Yet in a large number of cases the precise questions and problems took a form which could hardly have existed except in the experience of the apostolic age, when the early Christians were thrown upon their own resources in view of an unlooked for future, and confronted with the task of energetic propaganda. Written thus, from and for the practical religious interests of the Church, it was inevitable that this characteristic should in a measure affect the contents of the gospels. It is satisfactory to find this frankly recognised even in Mark by so moderate a critic as Zahn (Einl. ii. pp. 248, 249, “ Die Rücksicht auf die Erbauung und das Streben nach Verdeutlichung schliesst die peinlich genaue Wiederholung der vor Jahren unter ganz anderen Verhältnissen gesprochenen Worte Jesu aus”). He notices kai Zucket Toũ củaYrYeNoo (835 1029), 227 838 91 10301 1314 1458, and particularly 941 (óti Xplotoû łoté); sayings in all of which we hear the voice of the
1 Even the structure of a gospel like Matthew shows traces of numerical | arrangement (fives and sevens, e.g.), introduced in order to facilitate its use as
à catechism, or simply preserved from sources used for such a purpose (cp. Horae Synopticae, pp. 131-136, for instances of this Jewish habit). The aim of furnishing a code or series of regulations upon various points of Christian conduct is reflected in passages such as Clem. Rom. xiii. ; Did. i. Réville calls attention to the didactic and sevenfold grouping of the speeches in Matthew : (i.) the new law, 53-727 ; (ii.) apostolic instructions, 937-38 103-16. 33-42; (iii.) foes, 117-19. 21-30 1224-25. 28. 30. 37-39 ; (iv.) parables of the kingdom, 131-52 ; (v.) relationships within the kingdom, 182-7. 10-23 201-16 2123-27 221-6. 8-14 ; (vi.) woes, 23; (vii.) eschatology, 2411-12. 26-28. 37-51 25.
apostolic preacher or church, the echo of the years that followed Christ's death, not the very voice of Jesus. Zahn attributes these less to inexactness upon the part of the writer of the gospel, than to the free reproduction of Christ's words in the apostolic preaching upon which the author drew, although he must be considered to have more than once abbreviated his sources (e.g. at 113). Such examples of free handling are obvious and familiar; they may be safely taken as an irreducible minimum. Indeed, without falling into arbitrariness, criticism may add, as it has often added, considerably to their number and extent. And if this be the case with Mark, the most primitive and free from tendency among the gospels, how much more likely is it that such features are to be found in the later books. “Even Luke, who, of the three, stands nearest to us children of the West and of the new age, in virtue of his more national talent, education, and purpose, even he could not have said of his work, TOÙ ouryypadews épyou év ós êmpúxon eitelv (Lucian, Hist. Conscr. 39).” See further, Zahn's essay in ZKWL (1888), pp. 581-596, on “ Der Geschichtschreiber und sein Stoff im NT.” As for Judaism, Mr. Schechter observes, it “ bowed before truth, but it never made a covenant with facts only because they were facts. History had to be re-made, and to sanctify itself before it found its way into the sacred annals ” (Studies in Judaism, p. xxv).
This fact of their practical motive helps also to explain why the personal element appears to have been blanched away from the gospels. “We cannot discover any expression of interior feelings which the writers experienced in painting the life of their Master. There is no enthusiasm, no cry of admiration, no private reflections" (Didon). As we read their pages, it requires some effort to think of their authors at all. They are not readily conceived as compositions skilfully drawn up and executed. While characteristics and tendencies are betrayed in each, betrayed sometimes without very much disguise, none of them gives any direct clue to the individuality of the author's mind. When the Johannine authorship is accepted, the fourth gospel forms a doubtful
exception; but there can be no mistake about the others. Even in the case of the third gospel, where tradition has done most, not only for the question of the authorship, but also for the personal traits and character of the author, the standpoint, notwithstanding, is hardly less objective than in its predecessors. This apparent absence of personal colouring points back to one cause. It is not due to the overmastering impression of the contents, nor to any supposed transmission of Divine truth in its highest phases through channels which must lie apart from the media of human feelings and ideas, as though reflection were alien to inspiration ; nor are the authors' names concealed as were those of the Gottes Freunde in the fourteenth century, lest pride of authorship should form a spiritual peril. These anonymous gospels 1 simply represent to a large extent the final shape given to collections of evangelic matter which had been previously composed by and for members belonging to the general body of the Christian societies. The evangelic writings, as a consequence, are almost entirely lacking in the personal interest which attaches to individuality of authorship. Their object and environment told against it. But they are personal in a wider sense. They can all be identified with the utterances of reflection, emotion, and practical experience throughout the circles of early Christianity, as these were stirred by the person and the spirit of Jesus (cp. especially Holsten's Die syn. Evangelien nach der Form ihres Inhalts, 1886).2
Thus, either as historical narratives or as letters, the NT writings are an explicit result of living intercourse and mutual service within the Christian communities. Iapádoors and uaptúplov are the two words that characterise their content. The literature represents, as it were, a further and supplementary phase of that social vitality in which the few were called upon to supply instruction and personal stimulus for the rest. In this respect the NT literature attaches itself to the prophetic sections of the Hebrew Canon. So far as the character and motives of the writings are concerned, the religious continuity is genuine. Old and new alike specify a life, with its complex of relationships and responsibilities, in which recourse to authorship occurs neither along the line of a merely literary impulse, nor among the initial and primary conditions of the religious movement. Consequently there is significance even in the gaps which precede and divide the groups of writings. They excite legitimate conjecture and surmise. They indicate the presence of tendencies and forces not yet articulate, apart from which the subsequent literature is inexplicable. The epistles, and more especially the gospels, are results. Like the silence of the persons now and then in the dramas of Aeschylus, the very absence of historical expression (for example, in the first forty years of the Christian religion) is pregnant with meaning. Little is articulate, yet much is being done. A full and fair estimate of this unrecorded period conduces greatly to the appreciation of the subsequent writings, which at once presuppose it and throw back light upon it; they become intelligible when they are viewed as the outcome of a process and progress which is suggested by the very appearance of their origin.
1 For some early difficulties (quod nec ab ipso scriptum constat nec ab eius apostolis, sed longo post tempore a quibusdam incerti nominis viris) raised by this feature of the gospels, see the interesting correspondence of Augustine and Faustus (especially xxxii., xxxiii.).
2 Holsten's particular views, however, are less convincing than his general method of treatment. The dogmatic principles which differentiate the gospels are, in his opinion, threefold-(a) the Pauline ; (b) the Jewish-Christian ; and (c) the anti-Pauline ; but recent criticism has moved away from such emphasis upon tendencies within the early church.
The synoptic gospels, then, are the resultant of several factors. They represent not merely the contemporary feeling and opinion actually abroad within Christian circles between 70 and 100, but also the processes of reflection, the dominant interests and activities of faith, the mental and devotional attitude to Jesus, which must have been current through the memory and teaching of the early Christians during the years that intervened between 30 and 70. And this, not exclusively in the primitive Jerusalem or Palestinian circles. The claims of realism and the historical Jesus were evidently felt even by some who were in sympathy with the main
positions of Paulinism. It is natural to regard Paul “ in his passion for ideas and apparent indifference to biographic detail, as an exception, and to think of the majority of his followers as men who, while sympathising with his universalism, shared in no small measure the common Jewish realism ” (Bruce, ExcGT, i. pp. 13-15). This is a valid and attractive supposition, though it lacks definite evidence. It is doubtless a shrewd surmise, like the similar suggestion of Weizsäcker, that Paul had collaborateurs, Barnabas, Apollos, and others, whose independent but allied work in the sphere of dogma helped the later fusion of Jewish-Christian and Gentile tendencies. Certainly there is significance at least in the tradition which attributes the earliest narrative of the historical Jesus to one (Mark) who was a coadjutor and adherent of Paul, and the third gospel to his companion and physician Luke. But whatever may have been the extent of this retrospective interest, its surviving products are to be viewed as authorities for the apostolic age; they give evidence of a widespread instinct which had arisen for the historical Jesus, and also of the
i On the “historical Christ” of Paul, see especially Dr. Matheson's suggestive papers, Exp. 1., pp. 437., 125f., 264 f., 352 F., 431 f. ; ii., pp. 27 f., 137 f., 287 f., 357 f. ; Schmoller's essay, SK (1894), pp. 656-705, and the monograph by Roos (Die Briefe d. Apostels Paul. und die Reden Jesu, 1887). It is unfortunate that a passage like Eph 420-21 (“ as the truth is in Jesus ”) cannot be safely used as evidence for Paul's ideas, since it would in that case prove that he felt the need of emphasising the decisive authority of the historical Jesus. Otherwise, if sub-Pauline, it corroborates the far from imaginary danger prevalent in spite of the synoptic tradition, by which Jesus came to be evaporated into a metaphysical and shadowy abstraction (2 Jn 7, 1 Jn 42, 3, etc.). Hence the need of historical records. It is true that much later again Doketism and historical composition became allies (e.g. the gospel of Peter), but there can be little doubt that this subsequent disposition to record and yet undervalue the humanity of the actual Christ was kin to the earlier tendency which found little gain in preserving any connection with the historical base of Christianity.
2 Modern estimates of Luke as an author vary from eulogy to depreciatory criticism. A rather sensible and moderate view of his learning is that of Blass : Mutatis mutandis fere de eo dici poterit quod de Sophocle dixit Ion Chius : Tà πολιτικά (in rebus ecclesiae) ούτε σοφός ούτε ρεκτήριος ήν, αλλ' ώς άν τις είς των xpnotwv 'Aonvalwv (Christianorum)... omnino, cum ad minora minimaque descenderis, evanescit ars, apparet saepe incuria ; nam perpolitus scriptor neque est Lucas neque esse voluit. The last three words, however, are somewhat gratuitous.