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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.
see is beaucs
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
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).
of the NT writings belong to the history of the canon 1 rather than to a study of the writings themselves. They represent interests and, tendencies quite other than chrono
logical. In the group of the gospels, e.g. Matthew and John 1 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," 1II. 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: Einl. pp. 349-357; Nestle, Einf. pp. 128-132; 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 xphoomar a pòs dúotao IV της εμαυτού 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 (A poc 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,2 possibly considerations of authorship. The usage throughout the churches was quite inexact: the principles that determined it divergent. 3
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."
? 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.
Occasionally it becomes a positive and plentiful hindrance. Even for a trained and alert intelligence there is a certain effort in reading, say 1 Thessal., and at the same time refusing to allow the intrusion of ideas developed in the Galatian and Roman letters which precede it in the printed Testament. How arduous, yet how necessary, to read the Apocalypse before the fourth gospel, or again to study Hebrews and Acts without being swayed by the previously printed and subsequently written pages of John!1 These are but instances of the blurring effect produced by the canonical order, with all its excellence and convenience. Nor is there any reason why such an effect should not be obviated. Print may be made to serve the mind instead of misdirecting it, and the service is greatly to be desired. True criticism of the NT is like science, it becomes “ a precious visitant ” only when it has been trained in the methods of historical evolution,
“ Taught with patient interest to watch
The processes of things, and serve the cause
Of order and distinctness.” Part of this teaching is to have the imagination impressed exactly and vividly with the recurring sequences of thought and feeling. But these, again, to be lucid, must be exhibited in the natural order of their expression; and they can readily be thus exhibited. Under the most favourable circumstances, a taxing effort is required to realise the NT facts and conceptions with anything like consecutiveness and coherence. To reduce some of the initial and avoidable obstacles, and to help the mind past these to a scrutiny and appreciation of the matters which are really at issue in NT criticism, constitute one aim of the present edition, and furnish the justification of its divergence from the canonical order. It is offered as a minor contribution to the study of the records, on the principle that some light is often to be found in the mere knowledge that one book comes after another, especially when that knowledge is stereotyped in black and white. The customary arrangement fails to entirely conceal or express this truth of succession. Consequently these pages will do their work as they present, in some more adequate form, the materials for that regular survey apart from which the process of critical research is apt to find itself misled or hampered.
* To this in part may be also due the unhistorical presuppositions which treat the minor writings of the NT unfairly by reading into them or expecting from them more or less systematic developed conceptions. Cp. Deissmann's spirited protest in regard to the mishandling of the catholic epistles, ZTEK (1893), pp. 133, 134, with Wrede's equally judicious discussion, Ueber Aufgabe U. Methode der sog., NTTh, p. 17 f.
One or two sentences fall to be added by way of explanation.
The priority of the Pauline epistles to the gospels suggests three considerations which are extremely important for a proper attitude to the whole subject_(a) Their priority does not ipso facto support, although it certainly suggests, a theory of literary dependence between these writings and, say, the third and fourth gospels. The final proofs of such filiation are internal. There is a natural temptation to lay almost peremptory stress upon the external positions of books, and this delusion is encouraged by the printed form of a modern edition. But such unscientific assumptions must be ruled out of court. In this case, as in the case of other NT groups, the literary relationship between an earlier and a later document (when their relative position can be independently fixed) depends upon a far wider and subtler range of facts, such as the extent to which any writing may have circulated 1 during the first century, beyond its originally local scope (an extent which varies, of course, with its subject and form), and also the amount of organic connection which may be presumed to have existed between one writing and another
1 Classical literature furnishes some analogies for this. Christian writings may have been (a) reproduced by means of written copies, a method which would be at best limited, or (b) read with comments to various circles of listeners. Probably the latter method was more common in the early days of Christianity (1 Ti 413, Apoc 13, uakápos ó åvayıváo kwv kai oi åkoúovteS TOUS Loyous tñs a poontelas, etc.). Pliny's correspondence is full of references to the custom of “publishing” a book by reading it aloud to a group of friends.