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mercy of dogmatic or devotional fantasy. Similarly, to hold
the study of early Christian literature, it is apt to bring a ^. | leprosy of incompetence which taints even work that is pro
Espacer · fessedly written upon critical principles (cp. ICC, “Romans," "
p. xli, “Luke," p. v). For the historical student of that
It is by steering clear of such errors that liberal 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 σπουδαίον εις όψιν), 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 képon παρ' αυτού κρείσσον' η μορφή καλή).