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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/183

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169
AGNOSTICISM: A REJOINDER.
Apart from all disputed points of criticism, no one practically doubts that our Lord lived and that he died on the cross, in the most intense sense of filial relation to his Father in heaven, and that he bore testimony to that Father's providence, love, and grace toward mankind. The Lord's Prayer affords a sufficient evidence on these points. If the Sermon on the Mount alone be added, the whole unseen world, of which the agnostic refuses to know anything, stands unveiled before us. . . . If Jesus Christ preached that sermon, made those promises, and taught that prayer, then any one who says that we know nothing of God, or of a future life, or of an unseen world, says that he does not believe Jesus Christ.[1]

Again—

The main question at issue, in a word, is one which Prof. Huxley has chosen to leave entirely on one side—whether, namely, allowing for the utmost uncertainty on other points of the criticism to which he appeals, there is any reasonable doubt that the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount afford a true account of our Lord's essential belief and cardinal teaching.[2]

I certainly was not aware that I had evaded the questions here stated; indeed, I should say that I have indicated my reply to them pretty clearly; but, as Dr. Wace wants a plainer answer, he shall certainly be gratified. If, as Dr. Wace declares it is, his "whole case is involved in" the argument as stated in the latter of these two extracts, so much the worse for his whole case. For I am of opinion that there is the gravest reason for doubting whether the "Sermon on the Mount" was ever preached, and whether the so-called "Lord's Prayer" was ever prayed by Jesus of Nazareth. My reasons for this opinion are, among others, these: There is now no doubt that the three synoptic Gospels, so far from being the work of three independent writers, are closely interdependent,[3] and that in one of two ways. Either all three contain, as their foundation, versions, to a large extent verbally identical, of one and the same tradition; or two of them are thus closely dependent on the third; and the opinion of the majority of the best critics has, of late years, more and more converged toward the conviction that our canonical second Gospel (the so-called "Mark's" Gospel) is that which most closely represents the primitive groundwork of the three.[4] That I take to be

  1. "Popular Science Monthly" for May, 1889, p. 68.
  2. Ibid., p. 69.
  3. I suppose this is what Dr. Wace is thinking about when he says that I allege that there "is no visible escape" from the supposition of an "Ur-Marcus" (p. 82). That a "theologian of repute" should confound an indisputable fact with one of the modes of explaining that fact, is not so singular as those who are unaccustomed to the ways of theologians might imagine.
  4. Any examiner whose duty it has been to examine into a case of "copying" will be particularly well prepared to appreciate the force of the case stated in that most excellent little book, "The Common Tradition of the Synoptic Gospels," by Dr. Abbott and Mr. Rushbrooke (Macmillan, 1884). To those who have not passed through such painful experiences I may recommend the brief discussion of the genuineness of the "Casket Letters" in my friend Mr. Skelton's interesting book, "Maitland of Lethington." The second edition of Holtzmann's "Lehrbuch," published in 1886, gives a remarkably fair and full account of