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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/198

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184
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

with destruction. And, from their point of view, they were quite right. In the course of a century, Pauline influences had a large share in driving primitive Nazarenism from being the very heart of the new faith into the position of scouted error; and the spirit of Paul's doctrine continued its work of driving Christianity further and further away from Judaism, until "meats offered to idols" might be eaten without scruple, while the Nazarene methods of observing even the Sabbath or the Passover were branded with the mark of Judaizing heresy.

But if the primitive Nazarenes of whom the Acts speaks were orthodox Jews, what sort of probability can there be that Jesus was anything else? How can he have founded the universal religion which was not heard of till twenty years after his death?[1] That Jesus possessed in a rare degree the gift of attaching men to his person and to his fortunes; that he was the author of many a striking saying, and the advocate of equity, of love, and of humility; that he may have disregarded the subtleties of the bigots for legal observance, and appealed rather to those noble conceptions of religion which constituted the pith and kernel of the teaching of the great prophets of his nation seven hundred years earlier; and that, in the last scenes of his career, he may have embodied the ideal sufferer of Isaiah—may be, as I think it is, extremely probable. But all this involves not a step beyond the borders of orthodox Judaism. Again, who is to say whether Jesus proclaimed himself the veritable Messiah, expected by his nation since the appearance of the pseudo-prophetic work of Daniel, a century and a half before his time; or whether the enthusiasm of his followers gradually forced him to assume that position?

But one thing is quite certain: if that belief in the speedy second coming of the Messiah which was shared by all parties in the primitive church, whether Nazarene or Pauline; which Jesus is made to prophesy, over and over again, in the synoptic Gospels; and which dominated the life of Christians during the first century after the crucifixion—if he believed and taught that, then assuredly he was under an illusion, and he is responsible for that which the mere effluxion of time has demonstrated to be a prodigious error.

When I ventured to doubt "whether any Protestant theologian who has a reputation to lose will say that he believes the Gadarene story," it appears that I reckoned without Dr. Wace, who, referring to this passage in my paper, says:

  1. Dr. Harnack, in the lately published second edition of his "Dogmengeschichte," says (p. S9), "Jesus Christ brought forward no new doctrine"; and again (p. 65), "It is not difficult to set against every portion of the utterances of Jesus an observation which deprives him of originality." See also Zusatz 4, on the same page.