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874
[N.T. CANON
BIBLE

later epistles are really the work of St Paul, the difference must be accounted for (a) by a somewhat unusual range of variation in style and thought on his part, and (b) by different environment and different purpose. The question is whether these explanations are adequate. The writer of this is inclined to think that they are. St Paul was in any case an unusual writer, by no means facile or with ready command of expression; still, he could by an effort express what he wanted, and new situations called up new words and new minor ideas. He was also a writer in whom the physical wear and tear must have been enormous. It might well be believed that the change in the so-called Epistles of the Imprisonment from the earlier epistles was due in part to the physical effects of prolonged confinement, as compared with the free, varied and open life and exciting controversies of earlier years. There is also the uncertain element that may possibly be due to the use of different amanuenses. An argument in favour of the genuineness of the epistles may be derived from the fact that each of the doubtful epistles is connected with others that are not doubtful by subtle links both of style and thought. If the reasons suggested above are not adequate, then we must set down the questioned epistles to some disciple of St Paul, who has carried the ideas and principles of his master a step farther or has applied them to a different set of problems and conditions.

2. The Gospels and Acts.—The Gospels and Acts arose in a way very similar to the Pauline Epistles. Here too there was no deliberate intention of writing a series of books that should be at once accepted as sacred and authoritative. Here too the expectation of the near return of Christ doubtless delayed for a number of years the desire and need for written compositions. Here too the first steps were taken as the exigencies of the moment dictated. We are again driven to fill up the gaps in our knowledge by conjectures; but some such outline as the following has much to commend it.

When the enterprise of Christian missionaries had gone on for some little time, especially in the regions outside Palestine where there was little or no previous knowledge of Christ and of Christian ideals, the wandering prophets and apostles by whom the missions were mainly conducted must have soon begun to feel the need for some sort of written manual to supplement their own personal teaching. It was one of the characteristics of the early Christian teachers that they rarely stayed for any length of time in a place; they moved on, and the little congregation was left to wait for another visitor, who might be some time in coming. How was this interval to be filled? There would be every degree of preparation, or want of preparation, for the reception of Christian teaching. Some Jews, like those who are described in the Gospel as “waiting for the kingdom of God,” would be pious men and women carefully trained in the Old Testament, who would be almost fit for the kingdom even before they had heard of Christ. Other Gentile converts would require instruction in the very rudiments of ethical and monotheistic religion. Between these extremes there would be many shades and degrees of ignorance and knowledge. How could these various cases be met at once most simply and most effectually? We remember that the Christian preachers were preaching before all things a Person, but a Person whose interest for these new converts lay chiefly in the fact that He was about to come and establish a supernatural kingdom for which they had to fit themselves. The best way therefore of helping them to do this was to provide them with an outline of the characteristic teaching of Christ, which should be at the same time a clear statement of His moral demands. It is probable that these requirements suggested the form of the first Christian Gospel, which the writer believes to be rightly identified with the so-called Logia of St Matthew, now often designated by the symbol Q. It did not aim at being a history, and still less a complete history, but it was mainly a collection of sayings or discourses suited to supply a rule of life.

It would be somewhat later than this, and not until the eschatological outlook became weaker, and men began to turn their regard to the past rather than to the future, that there would gradually arise a more strictly historical interest. There is reason to think that in the Christian Church this interest did not begin to be active much before the decade A.D. 60-70. Its first conspicuous product was our present Gospel of St Mark, which was probably composed at Rome within the years 64-70. We say advisedly “our present Gospel of St Mark,” because there does not seem to us to be any sufficient reason for presupposing an Ur-Marcus, or older form of this Gospel.

These two works, the Logia (or, as some prefer to call it, the Non-Marcan document common to Matthew and Luke) and the Mark-Gospel, were the prime factors in all the subsequent composition of Gospels. Our Matthew and our Luke are just combinations, differently constructed, of these two documents, with a certain amount of additional matter which the editors had collected for themselves. And it is probable that other Gospels of which only fragments have come down to us, like the Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Peter, have been built up out of the same materials.

St Luke was the first to write, as we may see from his preface, definitely in the spirit of a historian. He addresses his work to Theophilus, apparently an official person, who had already been taught the main outlines of Christianity. He had planned his work on a large scale; and in Acts we have its second volume. It is an event of no small importance for criticism that so eminent a scholar as Prof. Harnack should have come round to the view, almost universally prevalent in England, that St Luke himself was the final editor and author of both the Third Gospel and the Acts. It is a very secondary question what is their exact date.

The reasons which converge upon the conclusion just expressed as to the origin and nature of the fundamental documents worked up in our present Synoptic Gospels are as follows:—(i.) The literary analysis of the Synoptic Gospels brings out a number of sections common to Matthew and Luke which probably at one time existed as an independent document. (ii.) This document consisted, in the main though not entirely, of a collection of Sayings of the Lord, which set in strong relief at once His character and the moral and religious ideal that He desired to commend. (iii.) We have an express statement, which must have been originally made before the end of the first century, that the apostle Matthew composed in Hebrew a work described as Logia. This word need not mean, but may quite well and pointedly mean, a collection specially of Sayings, and would still more aptly denote a collection of divine or authoritative sayings (λόγια = prop. “oracles”). (iv.) We know further that the conditions of early Christian missionary teaching were such as have been described. We learn this especially from the Didachē; and the first part of that work, the so-called “Two-Ways,” is commonly thought to have been in the first instance a Jewish manual put into the hands of proselytes. On our hypothesis the Logia would have been a sort of Christian manual used with a similar object. (v.) We are confirmed in this opinion by the fact that the epistles of St Paul furnish many indications that Christians in general, including those who had not been much in contact with the original Twelve, were well acquainted with the leading features in the character of Christ and in the Christian ideal, although there is little corresponding evidence for their knowledge of details in the life of Christ.

There is a similar statement to the one mentioned above, that like it must have been originally made before the end of the first century, as to a Gospel composed by St Mark on the basis mainly of the preaching of St Peter, though this need not exclude personal experience (as, e.g., perhaps in Mark xiv. 51-52) or information derived from other sources. Only raw materials came from St Peter, and those probably not checked or revised by him; the arrangement is due to Mark himself, and is more successful than might have been expected in the circumstances—indeed so successful as to suggest advice from some good quarter. According to Irenaeus (c. A.D. 185), who is more precise than Clement of Alexandria, the Gospel was not published until after the death of Peter, which would place its composition between the limits A.D. 65 and 70. The phenomena which are sometimes supposed to require the hypothesis of an Ur-Marcus are more simply and satisfactorily explained as incidents in the transmission of the Marcan text.

The matter peculiar to Matthew and Luke raises a number of interesting questions which are still too much sub judice to