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79
AGNOSTICISM.

all the weight of the admissions of a hostile witness. No one doubts his familiarity with the whole range of the criticism represented by such names as Strauss and Baur, and no one questions his disposition to give full weight to every objection which that criticism can urge. Even without assuming that he is prejudiced on either one side or the other, it will be admitted on all hands that he is more favorably disposed than otherwise to such criticism as Prof. Huxley relies on. When, therefore, with this full knowledge of the literature of the subject, such a writer comes to the conclusion that the criticism in question has entirely failed to make good its case on a point like that of the authorship of St. Luke's Gospel, we are at least justified in concluding that critical objections do not possess the weight which unbelievers or skeptics are wont to assign to them. M. Renan, in a word, is no adequate witness to the Gospels; but he is a very significant witness as to the value of modern critical objections to them.

Let us pass to the two other so-called "synoptical" Gospels. With respect to St. Matthew, M. Renan says in the same preface ("Vie de Jésus," p. lxxxi):

To sum up, I admit the four canonical Gospels as serious documents. All go back to the age which followed the death of Jesus; but their historical value is very diverse. .St. Matthew evidently deserves peculiar confidence for the discourses. Here are "the oracles," the very notes taken while the memory of the instruction of Jesus was living and definite. A kind of flashing brightness at once sweet and terrible, a divine force, if I may so say, underlies these words, detaches them from the context, and renders them easily recognizable by the critic.

In respect again to St. Mark, he says (p. lxxxii):

The Gospel of St. Mark is the one of the three synoptics which has remained the most ancient, the most original, and to which the least of later additions have been made. The details of fact possess in St. Mark a definiteness which we seek in vain in the other evangelists. He is fond of reporting certain sayings of our Lord in Syro-Chaldaic. He is full of minute observations, proceeding, beyond doubt, from an eye-witness. There is nothing to conflict with the supposition that this eye-witness, who had evidently followed Jesus, who had loved him and watched him in close intimacy, and who had preserved a vivid image of him, was the apostle Peter himself, as Papias has it.

I call these admissions a "practical surrender" of the adverse case, as stated by critics like Strauss and Baur, who denied that we had in the Gospels contemporary evidence, and I do not think it necessary to define the adjective, in order to please Prof. Huxley's appetite for definitions. At the very least it is a direct contradiction of Prof. Huxley's statement[1] that we know "absolutely nothing" of "the originator or originators" of the narratives in the first three Gospels; and it is an equally direct contradiction of the case, on which his main reply to my paper is based, that we

  1. "Popular Science Monthly" for April, 1889, p. 756.