Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/353

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
333
CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM.

embody a certain record older than themselves. But by what right does he ask me to accept this as evidence, or as affording even the slightest presumption, that there was no other? Between his allegation in one sentence that the second Gospel "most closely represents the primitive groundwork of the three," and his allegation, in the next sentence but one, that "the second Gospel is the nearest extant representative of the oldest tradition," there is an absolute and palpable non sequitur. It is a mere juggle of phrases, and upon this juggle the whole of his subsequent argument on this point depends. St. Mark's Gospel may very well represent the oldest tradition relative to the common latter of the three, without, therefore, necessarily representing "the oldest tradition" in such a sense as to be a touchstone for all other reports of our Lord's life. Prof. Huxley must know very well that from the time of Schleiermacher many critics have believed in the existence of another document containing a collection of our Lord's discourses. Holtzmann concludes ("Lehrbuch," page 376) that "under all the circumstances the hypothesis of two sources offers the most probable solution of the synoptical problem"; and it is surely incredible that no old traditions of our Lord's teaching should have existed beyond those which are common to the three Gospels. St. Luke, in fact, in that preface which Prof. Huxley has no hesitation in. using for his own purposes, says that "many had taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us"; but Prof. Huxley asks us to assume that none of these records were old, and none trustworthy, but that particular one which furnishes a sort of skeleton to the first three Gospels. There is no evidence whatever, beyond Prof. Huxley's private judgment, for such an assumption. Nay, he himself tells us that, according to Holtzmann, it is at present a "burning question" among critics "whether the relatively primitive narration and the root of the other synoptic texts is contained in Matthew or in Mark."[1] Yet while his own authority tells him that this is a burning question, he treats it as settled in favor of St. Mark, "beyond any rational doubt or dispute," and employs this assumption as sufficiently solid ground on which to rest his doubts of the genuineness of the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's Prayer!

But let us pass to another point in Prof. Huxley's mode of argument. Let us grant, again for the sake of argument, his non sequitur that the second Gospel is the nearest extant representative of the oldest tradition. "How comes it," he asks, "that it contains neither the Sermon on the Mount nor the Lord's Prayer?" Well, that is a very interesting inquiry, which has, in point of fact, often been considered by Christian divines; and various

  1. "Popular Science Monthly" for June, 1889, p. 169.