« AnteriorContinuar »
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 ÊTLOTOlaí ovomatikaí (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
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 spi.it 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—lória, dunyoels, à trouvnuoveópata—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 oftenhandled, 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 to prove that during the Pauline period early Christianity had produced sporadic forms of epistolary literature, and at least the embryonic phases of what subsequently came to be wrought up into evangelic narratives. (ii.) Together with this feature, another must be reckoned. About twenty years elapsed between the crucifixion and the earliest of Paul's epistles. During this time, and even previous to his conversion, a Christian life was active, which did not owe its origin to him. He found churches in existence when he became a Christian, and alongside of his activity other agents worked more or less independently of his principles. These factors, and others like them, have to be taken into account in forming an adequate estimate of the period between 30 and 70. The accident that only Paul's theology survived in literary products, and that the minor contemporary currents failed to win any equal or at least immediate record, ought not to be allowed to distort the historical view into an undue exaggeration or depreciation. This is one of those cases where again it must be said that the written expression of an age needs to be corrected and supplemented by the recollection that the real importance of any movement is not to be adequately measured by the literary memorials which it afterwards secured. Before and through and round the Pauline letters, the mind's eye has to see much that cannot be set down in black and white.1
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. Chrétiennes, “La Littératur Grecque,” pp. 1-24, and Deissmann, Bibelstudien, pp. 190–252.
2 E.g. Ac 2821, nueis oŮte ypáupata trepi o où é dečámeda årò tñs 'Iovdalas. The Christian use in Ac 15, 164; Clem. Rom. Ixiii. 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 (E.GT, 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).
Facts like these bring out very forcibly the introductory and limited character of a chronological edition. To know the birthday of a book, as Dr. Martineau insists, is still a long way from a settlement of its parentage. A longer way, one might add, from decisive conclusions upon its value and trustworthiness. Certainty on the date does not win everything at once. The supreme adjective for chronology is “preliminary,” and few will be so hasty as to imagine that, even were the question of dates more settled than it is at present, a corresponding assurance would have been thereby attained with regard to the historical contents and connections of the records. Their historicity and inner relations are always further problems, although it is upon these more than once that the question of the date partially depends. Consequently, while it is possible to tabulate luminously and honestly what seem to be results of thorough criticism, though provisional, they need not be indefinite—the attempt must be prefaced by the reminder that they do not form the whole, seldom even the major part, of the critical business. Beyond them lie the burning questions.
1 On the relation of Paul's theology to the teaching of Jesus, there are very fine essays by Wendt (ZTÓK (1894), pp. 1–78) and Gloatz (SK (1895), 777–800). Generally speaking, we may say that in investigating the facts and beliefs that lie between 30 and 45 (or even 65), we are peering through a haze which renders their outline uncertain at many points, and occasionally prevents us from being sure whether we are viewing a given object in its true proportions, or whether indeed it is not an unsubstantial illusion. No contemporary documents exist. The main guide is inference based on later writings and developments, from which the historical imagination argues back with more or less penetration to the course of anterior events.
For the most part a similarly provisional character attaches even to the “date” of a document. That also has to be taken in a somewhat loose sense. Usually it is equivalent to a circa of one or two years, occasionally to a larger period, during which the writing is first known to have been in circulation. Only in a few cases, like those of the Thessalonian and Corinthian letters, can the exact year, and even the month, be determined. The fact is, a consensus of opinion is to be
At the same time, exception must be taken to the unqualified remark that “the doctrinal contents of an epistle may be correctly and adequately exhibited, whatever view be held respecting its author or its date” (Stevens, NTTI, p. 248). Surely, e.g., the epistle of James is one thing in the pre-Pauline period, and a very different thing in the post-Pauline. 1 Peter becomes in the seventh decade a writing of such spirit and significance as are considerably altered when it is taken some twenty or sixty years later. Change the locus of an epistle, adopt one view or another of its authorship, and the lights inevitably shift. In fact, the more accurately a writing is understood in connection with its age, the more vital to its interpretation are the problems of authorship and date. They seldom become altogether accessory or subordinate, nor are they in any case quite a matter of indifference either to the interpreter, or to any one who endeav. ours to use such a document carefully in his reconstruction of early Christianity.
? The later ecclesiastical term deồnuod levuévai ypapai (Origen) suggests mainly the public reading of the writings in church (=publicari).
3 In dating the OT writings upon a similar scheme, the dialects and idioms of Hebrew are of large service (cp. Margoliouth, DB, iii. p. 33 f). A change in