Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/352

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"Introduction to the New Testament," by Dr. Salmon, who, like Prof. Huxley, is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and who became eminent as one of the first mathematicians of Europe before he became similarly eminent as a theologian. I am content here to let Prof. Huxley's assumptions pass, as I am only concerned to illustrate the fallacious character of the reasoning he founds upon them. He tells us, then, that—

there is now no doubt that the three synoptic Gospels, so far from being the work of three independent writers, are closely interdependent, 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. That I take to be one of the most valid results of New Testament criticism, of immeasurably greater importance than the discussion about dates and authorship. But if, as I believe to be the case beyond any rational doubt or dispute, the second Gospel is the nearest extant representative of the oldest tradition, whether written or oral, how comes it that it contains neither the "Sermon on the Mount" nor the "Lord's Prayer," those typical embodiments, according to Dr. Wace, of the "essential belief and cardinal teaching" of Jesus?

I have quoted every word of this passage because I am anxious for the reader to estimate the value of Prof. Huxley's own statement of his case. It is, as he says, the opinion of many critics of authority that a certain fixed tradition, written or oral, was used by the writers of the first three Gospels. In the first place, why this should prevent those three Gospels from being the work of "three independent writers" I am at a loss to conceive. If Mr. Froude, the late Prof. Brewer, and the late Mr. Green each use the Rolls Calendars of the reign of Henry VIII, I do not see that this abolishes their individuality. Any historian who describes the Peloponnesian War uses the memoirs of that war written by Thucydides; but Bishop Thirlwall and Mr. Grote were, I presume, independent writers. But to pass to a more important point, that which is assumed is that the alleged tradition, written or oral, was the groundwork of our first three Gospels, and it is, therefore, older than they are. Let it be granted, for the sake of argument. But how does this prove that the tradition in question is "the oldest," so that anything which was not in it is thereby discredited? It was, let us allow, an old tradition used by the writers of the first three Gospels. But how does this fact raise the slightest presumption against the probability that there were other traditions equally old which they might use with equal justification so far as their scope required? Prof. Huxley alleges, and I do not care to dispute the allegation, that the first three Gospels