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unexpected character. No disrespect, therefore, is shown to that part of Dr. Martineau's discussion which deals with truths of pbilosophy and psychology, in singling out for especial examination that larger portion of it given to New Testament criticism.
Let me first briefly state the point of view from which Dr. Martineau approaches the New Testament. He brings to it the belief that the claim of a spiritual lordship of Jesus Christ, asserted in his behalf by the Christian Church, is invalid. There is no religious authority, he believes, except that which the Father in heaven immediately wields over the soul. To know Him as God is to feel his exclusive sovereignty. The conscience, which is the seat of religious authority, responds only to his voice. What the prophet says under the inspiration of his Spirit is not for that reason the divine word to other men. Should a claim of divine authority be made in behalf of any teaching coming from human lips, it ought to be treated as baseless and irreligious.
Having enunciated this conception of religion, Dr. Martineau proceeds to test by it the claim of the Christian Church to hold and to teach the true and absolute religion. He finds that both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Church (he would, I presume, include the Greek Church in what he says of the former as having a similar interpretation of Christianity) fall short; the former in claiming divine authority for the official utterances of the church, and the latter in ascribing such authority to the teachings of the Bible.
In stating and defending his conception of religion, Dr. Martineau is led to a criticism of the Gospels. I do not mean by this that the criticism is connected with his task by a logical necessity. Plainly it is not. His theory of religion necessarily appeals to the declarations of the moral nature as its sole ground of support, and if it is sustained by them cannot be overthrown by anything written in a book. If that part of man which feels God's authority only owns God in what it receives from Him in solitary and exclusive communion, then we need not attend to any one claiming to bring a divine message, or to anything claiming to be such a message. It is only necessary to say, “ The court to which you appeal has already disallowed your claim.”
Dr. Martineau, however, evidently feels that more should be done for his theory of religion than to prove its truth by the only evidence it allows. He is aware of an obstacle likely to bar its entrance into religious moods, one not to be removed by his arguments, because lying in part outside their sphere, namely, the ap
parent claim of Christ to spiritual authority. This, taken in connection with his influence on mankind, is an utterly inexplicable fact, if Dr. Martineau's contention be just. Moreover, the moral nature so often seems to respond to Christ's claim, that some cannot help distrusting the accuracy of a description of this part of man, which represents it as refusing to concede spiritual authority to any one who has lived on earth. Therefore, to satisfy Christian men that his view of religion is the true one, Dr. Martineau feels obliged to examine the Gospels, and ask whether, when tested by a thorough criticism, they may claim credence for their presentation of Christ.
So we come to Dr. Martineau's criticism, and take up first his treatment of the fundamental question, What date is to be assigned to the Synoptic Gospels ?
This, I say, is the fundamental question, for the first three Gospels are our main sources of knowledge respecting the historical Christ. They contain, it is universally admitted, about all of the common stock of recollections of Him possessed by his immediate disciples which has come down to us. They are older than the fourth Gospel, and were not written, as that avowedly was, to show how one view of Jesus's person (the highest view) is illustrated by certain of his deeds and words. They take precedence of it, therefore, as sources of knowledge of what Jesus did and said, though we admit (as I think we should) it to have been written by the Apostle John. Christianity could live without the fourth Gospel, although it would suffer a grievous loss by the removal of this book from its Sacred Scriptures. I do not see how it could live without the Synoptic Gospels. At any rate, if the portrait of Jesus which they give were proved unhistorical, the historicity of that contained in the fourth Gospel could not be successfully maintained.
In estimating the trustworthiness of these Gospels, we must, of course, be greatly influenced by the opinion we form as to the date of their composition. If they were written a considerable time after the death of the Apostles, it is possible that the apostolic tradition was seriously corrupted before assuming the form in which they present it. But if they (or at any rate the essential substance of them) were written either within the lifetime of the twelve or of those who received their account of Christ, such corruption is scarcely credible. And if it be proved that their essential contents came from A postles, either having been written by one of the twelve or communicated orally by one of them to
the author (or authors), their representation of Jesus may be assumed to be trustworthy.
When we come to Dr. Martineau's discussion of this question, we are disappointed to find it meagre. Less than six pages are allotted to it; of these only two are given to the consideration of the external evidences of the apostolic origin of the first three Gospels. This seems to allow but scanty room for weighing the reasons which lead the great mass of Christian believers and the overwhelming majority of Biblical scholars to regard these Gospels as having apostolic origin. Possibly, however, a digest of the more important facts may have been crowded into this little space, and at any rate we may presume that the account of the evidence is correct and fair as far as it goes. With this expectation let us take the several statements made, and examine them in detail.
First we are told that Irenæus (180–193, taking our author's dates) accepted these Gospels (with the fourth) as genuine, quoting them by their present titles, and claiming that all Christians should receive them. But it is added that Irenæus could “not have had real historical grounds for the statements he wished to support.” For if he had had them he would not have adduced fantastic reasons for there being four Gospels, namely, that there are four points of the compass, four chief winds, that in God's historic revelation there were four covenants, and that in the Apocalyptic picture of heaven four beasts sat before the throne.
But it should be borne in mind that Irenæus is not maintaining a discussion with those who deny the genuineness of the Gospels. He is merely expressing his exulting confidence in them as witnesses to Christ. In nature and in revelation he finds parallels to this fourfold method of revelation. Had he been trying to answer the question, What historical reasons are there for taking these books as genuine ? there is reason to believe that he would have had something else to say. And the significant fact in the discussion is not Irenæus's arguments, but his belief — the fact that the Bishop of Lyons in the last quarter of the second century, a man who had known in bis youth one who had sat at the feet of the Apostle John, should assume the authenticity of the Gospels to be one of the great fundamental facts of the Christian religion. Dr. Martineau cites no more witnesses from the end of the second century, but goes back at once to Justin Martyr (147–155, taking our author's dates again). Before following him we must wait long enough to ask whether a fair consideration of the matter in hand did not require that a fuller admission should have been here made of the general recognition of the Gospels at the end of the second century? Is it a fact without significance as regards their date, that when first after the apostolic age we have a clear view of the life of the church we find them everywhere enshrined in it? Let me quote Professor Andrews Norton's clear statement of the case : “ About the end of the second century, the Gospels were reverenced as sacred books by a community dispersed over the world, composed of men of different nations and languages. There were, to say the least, sixty thousand copies of them in existence; they were read in the churches of Christians; they were continually quoted and appealed to, as of the highest authority; their reputation was as well established among believers from one end of the Roman Empire to another, as it is at the present day among Christians in any country. But it is asserted that before that period we find no trace of their existence; and it is therefore inferred that they were not in common use, and but little known, even if extant in their present form. This reasoning is of the same kind as if one were to say that the first mention of Egyptian Thebes is in the poems of Homer. He, indeed, describes it as a city which poured a hundred armies from its hundred gates; but his is the first mention of it, and therefore we have no reason to suppose that, before his time, it was a place of any considerable note. The general reception of the Gospels as books of the highest authority, at the end of the second century, necessarily implies their celebrity at a much earlier period, and the long operation of causes sufficient to have produced so·remarkable a phenomenon.” 1
To go back with Dr. Martineau from Irenæus to Justin Martyr: he claims that the writings of the latter contain proof that they antedated the Synoptic Gospels. He does not undertake to show how Matthew, Mark, and Luke (I leave the fourth Gospel out of consideration for the present) could have gained acceptance with the universal church in less than thirty years. The absence of an explanation here will leave on many minds an objection to his opinion invincible by all but the strongest proofs. What are the phenomena of Justin's writings cited as evidence that these writings antedated our Synoptic Gospels? We find that Justin, while saying that the “ Memoirs of the Apostles” are read in the churches, and freely quoting from the “ Memoirs," does not mention the names of their authors. But as he does not al
1 Norton's Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, i. 195. Quoted by Professor Ezra Abbot, Critical Essays, p. 19.
lude to their authorship except to say that they were “composed by Apostles of Christ and their companions,” and as the absence of such allusion is perfectly explicable from the nature and object of his writings (two of them are apologies for Christianity addressed to the Roman Emperor and Senate, the third a dialogue respecting the truth of Christianity maintained with the Jew Trypho), this fact gives no reason for thinking that the “ Memoirs” were not our Gospels. We are told that of Justin's citations from the “ Memoirs ” (of these Mr. Sanday in his “Gospels in the Second Century” counts sixty-seven), only five are exactly true to Matthew or Luke. (Mr. Sanday finds ten which are “substantially exact” quotations.) At first blush, the presence in one book of a number of passages found in another and making part of its structure seems to show that the latter came into existence before the former. The fact that Matthew contains a number, albeit only a small number, of the verses which make up Isaiah is apparently a reason for maintaining that Isaiah is the older book. Besides, the amount of coincidence between Justin's “ Memoir” quotations and our Synoptic Gospels is much greater than appears in Dr. Martineau's statement of the case. In addition to the “ ten passages” “substantially exact,” Dr. Sanday finds twenty-five which“ present slight variations.” I have compared these passages as they are given by Justin with the similar ones in our Gospels, and find that Mr. Sanday's statement of the amount of variation is a fair one. I will give one of them as presented in each version as a specimen. I venture to substitute a literal translation for the Greek, as offering about as good a means of making the comparison.
Matthew iii. 11 : “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance. But the one after me coming is mightier than I, of whom I am not worthy to bear the sandals. He shall baptize you in Holy Ghost and in fire. Whose fan in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his threshing floor, and will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.”
Justin, Dialogue 49: “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance, but will come the mightier than I, of whom I am not worthy to bear the sandals. He will baptize you in Holy Ghost and in fire. Whose fan in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and the wheat gather into the garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.”
If due allowance is made for manuscript variation, the existence in Justin's works of thirty-five Gospel passages so closely resem