The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/New Testament Problems
NEW TESTAMENT PROBLEMS. If the importance of a writing be estimated by the influence it exerts and has exerted on the mind of men and on the history of the human (more particularly the Caucasian) race, Homo Europæus, and there seems to be no other standard nearly so just, then it must be admitted that the New Testament writings so far transcend all others as to form a class of their own. This affirmation need not be argued; it is undisputed. Hence it becomes a matter of supreme interest to understand these writings, from which modern no less than mediæval history takes its start, its form, its color, and, in great measure, its inspiration. But no understanding is final or satisfactory that is not historical. The question of Zoölogy is not, “What use have cattle for their horns?” but rather, “How did cattle get their horns?” So, too, the primary query with the critic is not, “What does the New Testament teach?” (this question is left to the divine and the theologian), but, How did these Scriptures come into being? Who wrote them? When? Where? Under what circumstances? And for what ends? The whole body of knowledge thus far attained, and, still more, the whole body of investigation touching these inquiries are comprehended under the title of New Testament Criticism. This latter has therefore, in first line, nothing to do with questions as to the truth or falsity of any teaching of the Scriptures, nor with any matters of doctrinal or dogmatic interpretation, except in so far as these latter may be bound up with the conclusions concerning the genesis of the Scriptures themselves. This criticism, then, is essentially a discussion of origins, and not of values. However, it need not be disguised that doctrinal values, or at least estimates, may often be seriously affected by our determination of origins. In case of some scientific verity or method, as of the Pythagorean theorem or the use of zero in numerical notation, it may be quite indifferent whether the source be found in Greece or in Egypt, in Babylon or in Japan; but in case of some article of faith, some doctrine regulative of life but beyond the reach of proof or disproof by experiment or by argument, it is by no means indifferent whether it be the dictum of some supramundane personality or some theosopheme of a sect of mystics, the utterance of an inspired Apostle or the refinement of some ancient Babylonian myth. The interest of New Testament Criticism is not, then, merely academic; it does not appeal solely to the cognitive faculties, to the civilization-making instinct for knowledge as knowledge: its secondary and derivative but hardly less important interests concern our active natures as well and bear upon the whole front of our practical and institutional life.
The first inquiry that meets the student of any document concerns the text itself. Is this latter an original, or is it a copy? Or perhaps the copy of a copy? In either case, has it suffered any corruption, or is it a faithful transcript? In case there be many discrepant copies — the case actually presented — there will arise many questions as to the comparative age and authenticity of these copies, as to their relations to each other, and it will perhaps be necessary to reconstruct the supposed original from the contradictory attestations of these witnesses. Such is, in general, the text problem of New Testament Criticism, one of the most highly complex that ever challenged the efforts of the human understanding.
The testimony, which is enormous in amount, exists in the form of manuscripts, both uncials and cursives in the supposedly original tongue (the Greek), of translations, as Latin, Syriac, Æthiopic, Armenian, Gothic, of citations by the early Christian writers, of lectionaries arranged for liturgical use, of capitulations and versifications or divisions into chapters and verses, and so on. The problem of sifting and evaluating such a mass of evidence and striking the golden mean of truth would seem too difficult for human intellect, especially as there is no secure foothold at any point, nor any sure way of testing our results as we proceed. In the end there is no court of final appeal, and the whole case must be left undecided. Under such circumstances the marvel would seem to be that there should be any agreement at all, that there should not be as many minds as critics. However, extremely numerous as are the points of diverse judgment, where adjudication seems hopeless, the number of agreements is still far greater, where critical opinions rest harmonious and undisturbed. Now it might be thought that this harmony would be extended and perfected by the discovery of new testimony, which of late years has proceeded apace, and by the deeper and minuter study of the long familiar evidence. But the fact is exactly the reverse. Accumulation of depositions and profounder investigations have confirmed some critical judgments, but have shaken many others and completely overthrown not a few. The problem is indeed becoming not less but more complicated with advancing knowledge, and the textual uncertainty was never before so great as it is now.
True it is that the last generation has witnessed the most brilliant attempts yet made to construct the most highly probable text. Those masterly scholars, Bishop Westcott and Dr. Hort, thought they might, by a careful study of the genealogy of the various witnesses, attach a coefficient of value to each one singly and in combination, and thereby determine the original text in the overwhelming majority of cases with a close approach to certainty. Plausible and seductive as was their argumentation, and thoroughly accepted even now in many high quarters, it was yet fatally defective at many points and for several reasons, and can no longer command scientific assent. The “neutral” text which they posited as best represented by the great Vatican MS. B, is a figment of the imagination. The deference paid to certain great uncials was unwarranted. The testimony of the Fathers and the versions was undervalued. The depreciation of the so-called Western text was undeserved. The rash assumption that F was a copy of G was unfortunate. Closer study has shown decisively that at crucial points the witnesses upon which Westcott and Hort relied most confidently might all be misleading, and the MSS. most lightly esteemed might present the older reading. Even as the shepherd boy of old laid low the giant, so at any time may some neglected cursive or version or citation by the Fathers overthrow the most venerated uncial. Thus, the all-important word Ρωμη, in Rom. i, 7, 15, is attested by nearly all the best authorities; none the less it is an interpolation (Smith, J B L, 1901, Part I, p. 3 ff, Harnack, ‘Preuschen's Zeitschrift,’ 1902, I, p. 83 f). So, too, the position of the Doxology at the end of Rom. xvi is witnessed by א B C D and the best versions; nevertheless the position at the end of xiv is certainly the older. The Epilogue (xv and xvi) is given by nearly every authority, but, in spite of all, it is proved to be a later addendum; the Amiatinian and Fuldensian capitulations clearly point to its earlier absence.
These examples also correct very usefully a prevalent notion that textual variations are after all merely trifles, like the fading line between Imperfect and Aorist or the impalpable refinements of Greek syntax. On the contrary, they are sometimes blinding in their illumination, in their revelation of the primitive structure of our Scriptures.
Thus, the textual facts just stated involve a complete reconstruction of our notions about Romans, which now seems to be no Epistle and not addressed originally to Romans, but to be a compilation of moral and theological essays, first addressed to “all those in love of God,” afterward fitted out with Prologue and Epilogue as it now stands.
So, too, the extremely important F and G variant in Rom. ix, 22, unnoticed even by the best commentators (as Godet, Sanday, Weiss, Lipsius, Hofmann), indicates clearly the pure Judaic original of this famous chapter; the Christian hand has been laid on lightly and deftly but transfigures into a cosmic theory what was at first only a Jewish patriot's explanation of the delay of divine vengeance upon “vessels of wrath,” the Pagan oppressors of his people — an observation more fatal to theological libraries than the torch of Omar. Consult ‘The Hibbert Journal,’ 1, 2, pp. 328, 329.
Still another notion must be corrected. Let no one imagine that all or nearly all the variants are mistakes or due to mistakes; very many are visibly intentional. It was the ancient habit, particularly of the Oriental, to compile and recompile, to edit and re-edit and re-edit again, and with sacred books this habit became almost an inviolable rule. No one disputes this fact in case of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha and the extra-canonical early Christian writings. It would be well-nigh miraculous if the New Testament Scriptures should offer exceptions. Before the establishment of the Canon no sacred awe invested the canonics, there was no apparent reason why the favorite Scriptures should not be systematically modified to keep pace with the developing Christian consciousness, very much as our creeds are altered nowadays.
It is notorious that the Old Catholic heresy-hunters charged upon their opponents, Marcion, Valentinus and the rest, that these latter had corrupted the Scriptures to suit their own heresies. The charge may often have been well-founded in the sense above defined, but it might undoubtedly have been retorted and was retorted with equal justice by the heretics upon the Orthodox. The great master, Hort, has himself said, in speaking of the “Doxology”: “Indeed, ‘copies corrupted by Marcion’ need mean to us no more than ‘copies agreeing in a certain reading with Marcion's copy.’ . . . On the whole, it is reasonably certain that the omission is his only as having been transmitted by him, in other words, that it is a genuine ancient reading.” Wetstein's great word holds good: “Various readings, almost all, are due to the zeal, ingenuity and guess-work of transcribers” Tischendorf admits: “It can not be doubted that in the very earliest days of Christianity there were multifarious departures from the pure Scripture of the Apostles, wherein to be sure there entered naught of dishonesty or guile.” Under the deeper probing of Von Soden and others the original “neutral” B-text of W.-H. turns out to be only a very learned revision; the fault of the great Vatican is that it has considered “too curiously.” It is impossible to blink the fact that all manuscripts of all parts of the New Testament abound in readings that are plainly second thoughts. Our most ancient and revered codices reproduce only deformed, transformed and highly elaborated originals. It is extremely noteworthy that the heretical readings are slowly coming to their rights, to be recognized as often more primitive, less subtly reflective forms. Thus in John i, 3 the Gnostics read: “And without him was made not one (thing). What was made in him was life,” putting the full stop after ἔν, instead of after γέγονεν (was made); and their punctuation is at last adopted by W.-H. and Von Soden. In a word, it can no longer be doubted that Scripture was made from Dogma, not Dogma from Scripture.
There is little reason then to hope for the establishment of a Received Text — the ignis fatuus of textual criticism, though not to despair of it be the last infirmity of noble minds. If such did not exist in the beginning, neither will it exist in the end. The discovery of new manuscripts, the collation of a few hundred more, will not bring the chaos to order but will make confusion worse confounded. Witness the publication of the Sinaitic Palimpsest in Syriac and the turning of attention to the famous Bezæ Codex, called D: they have merely raised new problems, not settled the old. It is perfectly just, then, and highly significant when Blass no longer quotes critical editions of the New Testament, but quotes the manuscripts themselves, never presuming to say what is the “true text.” Such in theory at least is the position to which criticism must finally come. The critic's text, no matter how ingeniously or plausibly “berichtigt,” is only the critic's text, not the “true text,” after all.
And is such a mouse-like conclusion the only issue of the mountainous labors of centuries? Shall we know from year to year less and less what was the original autographic legacy, “the pure Scripture of the Apostles”? True. But this “less” is yet in a higher sense infinitely more. For we now come to recognize clearly the prime error of our assumptions thus far, and immeasurable is the progress involved in this recognition. It has, in fact, been everywhere and in every age tacitly assumed that there was in each case a unique autographic original, and that the problem of textual criticism was to discover that autograph, restore that original, and explain the manifold deviations therefrom. It is no reproach to criticism to have made this assumption and upheld it for centuries. No other was so natural or so plausible; none the less, it has proved unsatisfactory. In the face of the widening and multiplying diversities of the text-tradition, we can no longer range the Gospels and Epistles side by side with the Greek histories and the Letters of Cicero and ask how did Luke or Paul write it, just as we ask how did Thucydides or Plutarch or Pliny phrase it? In the Greek and Latin classics we recognize the works of the individual consciousness, here and there marred or corrupted, but each, in the main, single, solitary, self-consistent. Not so in the New Testament Scriptures. There we are confronted less with an individual than with a collective and communal consciousness. This consciousness is not always the same. By no means. It varies widely from the Synoptics to the Johannines, from the Paulines through the Catholics, to the Apocalypse. But it is nowhere individual, nowhere unital, nowhere self-consistent; it is everywhere communal, everywhere complicate, everywhere harmonistic. Indeed, Syncretism is by all odds the most conspicuous and impressive phenomenon it presents, a syncretism without a parallel in literature, unless in the Old Testament. In the latter the attempt has been made bravely and instructively, even if prematurely, to separate the components, to disentangle the “manifold wisdom” and distinguish the threads by colors. The time is not yet ripe for such an essay in the New Testament, but we may be sure that more than the seven primaries will be needed. The widely varying testimony of the manuscripts greatly complicates the problem, while lending some aid in its solution. Perhaps it may be well to illustrate the state of the case by a few examples. Let us pass by such long familiar facts as the omission or varying position of the paragraph anent the Adulteress (John vii, 53 — viii, 11), or the absence of the conclusion of Mark (xvi, 9-20), and many others, and fasten our eyes on the more massive fact that the variations in Acts are so extraordinary and omnipresent that the great master, Friedrich Blass, has been driven to the assumption of two originals, an α-text and β-text. The remarkable peculiarities of the Bezæ Codex (D) had been noted by F. A. Borneman as early as 1848, but critics did not follow him in regarding it as presenting the older text; its eccentricities were ascribed to the copyist, who, like the villain in the play, was thought capable of anything. Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, and Weiss base their texts of Acts essentially on B א A C. It remained for Blass to show that this D was only one of many witnesses to a distinct Occidental text very widely ramified. It was as when one tugs mightily at some exposed root of a tree: the earth begins to stir everywhere on that side of the tree. Blass was led to think that two manuscripts proceeded originally from Luke, one a memorandum (or draft) which he himself filled out into a book (the α-text or Antiochian form) for Theophilus. The draft, he thinks, remained as the β-text, at Rome, where it was elaborated into the Occidental text (forma romana). This theory of Blass has not maintained itself; it is naïve at many points, and it wrecks on many textual and other facts; but it has proved extremely valuable as bringing clearly to light the systematic differences of the manuscripts and showing how a critic with ultraconservative leanings (Blass dates Acts from 57-59 A.D.) is yet forced to the assumption of two primitive texts. Let one citation indicate the interval between them.
Acts xxvii, 1 (α-text): “And as it was determined for us to sail unto Italy, they were delivering both Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion by name Julius, of the Cohort Augustan.”
“So therefore the governor decided for him to be sent to Caesar, and on the morrow, having summoned a certain centurion of the Cohort Augustan, by name Julius, he delivered to him Paul with the remaining prisoners.”
It remains to add that Blass has found it necessary to distinguish two texts, α and β, in Luke's Gospel as well as in Acts.
The criticism of this eminent philologist, though not quite attaining the goal proposed, may be said to mark the beginning of the end of well-meant efforts to reconstruct the unital autographic originals of the New Testament Scriptures. The notably complex character of these latter comes out daily more and more clearly. The Baurian criticism had left the Apocalypse and the four chief Paulines as the primary and irresoluble literary records of the Apostolic Age, by which all others were to be measured and appraised. Of this sacred pentagram it was the analysis of Völter and Vischer that dissolved the first corner. These critics, especially the latter, have exhibited the Apocalypse as primarily a Judaic composition, itself highly composite, which has been interpolated and Christianized by one or more Christian hands. The still deeper digging of Gunkel, Bousset, Zimmern and Jeremias has brought to light a considerable amount of exceedingly primitive, even Babylonian, mythical material which had been cast into the alembic of the Apocalyptist. On the other hand, the extremely complex character of ‘Romans’ has come clearly into evidence. Spitta has found it necessary to break it up into two Epistles; the great Lightfoot, while rejecting the crude attempt of Renan, found himself constrained to propound a theory of a Shorter Recension. Völter surrendered the unity unconditionally, and Van Manen the Paulinity in his elaborate work on Paulus, though he had defended it against Loman. Steck also in his widely read and very readable Galaterbrief. More piercing was the analysis of Pierson and Naber in their remarkable Verisimilia, which in spirit and principle is the most advanced of European critical productions. Independently of the foregoing, and following other methods, the present writer has exposed the concretional structure of Romans in a series of monographs, with sufficient clearness. It can hardly be doubted that similar results await the application of similar methods to Corinthians and Galatians. Indeed, it was said years ago in the Theol. Jahresb., “The 2 Cor. Letter will no longer hold together.”
In Romans the presence of a large body of ancient Judaic originals seems now made out. The conservative, J. Rendel Harris, perceives that the list of sins (Rom. i, 29-31) is based upon an ancient Jewish Vidui (Confession for the day of Atonement). The same must, of course, be said of the similar list in 2 Tim. iii, 2-5. The searching analysis of Spitta and Massebieau shows clearly that the Epistle of James is almost wholly Judaic, Christianized by a few insignificant interpolations.
The problem of discovering the original elements, often Jewish, of the New Testament compositions, has been propounded only recently and has not yet advanced far toward solution. But the progress already made is most encouraging. That way lies truth — of this the day for doubt seems gone forever.
Closely connected with this quest is another, for the sources of the Scripture quotations attributed to the Gnostics by the Fathers. Thus far it has been held unsuspectingly that the Gnostics quoted from our Canonics or from parallel, still later sources. Inasmuch as the matter is of fundamental importance, it has appeared well to the writer to subject it to a minute and exhaustive investigation, which should include primarily Hippolytus, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. As a result of this investigation, though not yet completed, it may be declared that no evidence has yet come to light that the Gnostics ever used our Canonics; on the contrary, it appears certain that the Gnostics derived largely from sources now lost but certainly presenting much of our present canonic matter in a cruder, more primitive, less elaborate form. By every token these sources contained this matter in far more natural connection than it appears in at present. The new light that is thus thrown upon the anharmonies and asyndeta of the New Testament is often surprising. The transformations are often complete and effected in queerly ingenious manner. We now begin to feel the force of the oracle in Matt. xiii, 52: “Every scribe discipled for the kingdom of the heavens is like unto a householder that brings forth from his treasure things new and things old.” A few examples must here suffice. In Matt. xiii. 3-9, Mark iv, 3-9, Luke viii. 5-8, we read the Parable of the Sower. In Matt. xiii, 19-23, Mk. iv, 14-20. Luke viii. 11-15, it is carefully expounded. The seed is declared to be “the Logos of God,” the Sower is not interpreted, but is left to be understood of the Jesus or indeed of any preacher of the Gospel. Critics, even the keenest, as Koetsveld, Jülicher, Bugge, have never yet been able to satisfy even themselves concerning the interpretation, still less concerning the expressed design of the parables, to blind the hearers. Jülicher declares this latter to be impossible, especially for Jesus, and puts the dilemma sharply: “Either the Evangelists or Jesus.” No solution is found in the New Testament, but on turning to Hippolytus (Philosophumena, v. 8) we find given as a “saying” of the oldest pre-Christian Gnostics, the Naassenes, the following Allegory of Creation: “Forth went the Sower for to sow: And some fell by the wayside and were trodden down; and some upon the stony places and sprang up (he says), and through not having depth were withered and died; and some fell (he says) upon the earth the fair and good and made fruit; some a hundred and some sixty and some thirty. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” . . . Here the Sower is none other than God himself; the seed is the Logos, the spermatic Logos, the seminal Reason of the Stoics; the three classes are the elsewhere familiar Choics, Psychics, Pneumatics (all known to the New Testament), otherwise named the Captives, the Called, the Chosen. (A paper read by the writer before the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, New York, 28 Dec. 1904; “Der vorchristliche Jesus,” 107-135).
In the Gospels the phraseology has been expanded and enlivened, the Hebraism “in his sowing” (ἐν τᾤσπείρειν ἀυτόν) has intruded itself from the Lucan source, a 4th class has been inserted in the 3d (by Justin in the 2d) place, and the application made is entirely new.
In Matt, vii, 13, 14, we read the famous exhortation as to the gates: “Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide (is the gate), and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby. For [how] narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.” The passage is quite unconnected with its context; there is never any hint as to interpretation; it is a mystery even to Zahn; it is impossible in its present setting. But in Hippolytus (op. cit., v, 8) we find the Eleusinian doctrine of the two gates: the one into the lower common life of flesh and soul, through which all enter at birth, the other into the higher life of spirit, through which only the initiates may fare; then is given as a saying of “the Saviour” the following: “Concerning these (he says) expressly hath spoken the Saviour, that narrow and straitened is the way that leadeth into life, and few are they that fare in into it; broad though and wide the way that leads unto destruction, and many are they that thorofare through it.” The doctrine of the “Two Ways” was a favorite of antiquity but no nobler interpretation than this has yet been found. It must not be supposed that the use of the term “The Saviour” (ὁ Σωτήρ) presupposes the Gospel or Christianity. The word is not a New Testament favorite, occurring (save in Luke i, 47, ii, 11, Acts v, 31, xiii, 23) only in the so-called later Scriptures (19 times, 6 times in Titus); it has been shut out, then, from the Gospel tradition, perhaps as a current heathen designation of gods or even kings. With the Gnostics it was greatly preferred, while the Fathers substitute for it the name Lord (Κύριος, Dominus). Its Greek use goes back at least to Æschylus and Pindar, and in its technical sense it was pre-Christian. The battle-cry of the Greeks at Cunaxa was “Zeus Σωτήρ καὶ Νίκη” (Xen. Anab. I, 8, 16).
Again, the doctrine of judging the tree by its fruits finds large space in the Gospels. Thus Matt, vii, 16, “Do they gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?” and Luke vi, 44, “For of thorns they gather not figs, nor of bramble harvest grapes.” Here is an excellent answer to the oft-recurring question, which of two or more forms is the original? Plainly, both — and neither. They are variants upon an aphorism repeatedly met with in the classics. Says Plutarch, “We do not expect the vine to bear figs nor the olive clusters.” νῦν δὲ τὴν μὲν ἄμπελον συκα φέρειν οὐκ ἀξιοῦμεν οὐδὲ τὴν ἐλαίαν βότρυς ‘De Tranquillitate Animi,’ XIII (472, F). Ovid, too, (Aro Amatoria,' I, 747.
Siquis idem sperat, jacturas pomo myricas
Speret: et in medio flumine mella petat.
“If any hopes this, let him hope tamarisks will bear apples, and let him search for honey in the river's mid.”
These classic parallels suggest the important question: How much of the New Testament exists under other form in profane literature? The question has not yet received complete answer, which could hardly fail to prove very illuminative.
From all of the foregoing it appears that we must not judge the New Testament by the same standards we apply to the products of individual genius. It is the life of ages and of whole peoples that is concentrated in that volume. It is the gradual precipitate of the moral, religious and philosophic consciousness of three and a half centuries — a time and two times and the dividing of a time — that is stratified in that wonderful book. To this slow deposit nearly the whole circum-mediterranean region would seem to have made contribution. Certain it is that Rome and Athens and Ephesus and Antioch and Alexandria will bear honorable mention by the side of Palestine and Jerusalem, not yet to include Persia and India. It is the mighty Mother, it is Universal Humanity, that has brought forth this prodigious birth through the long travail of a third of a millennium.
The new aspect under which the critical problem now appears effects a remarkable transvaluation of values. The great critical movement may be said to have begun, ineffectually to be sure, in the great year 1792 with The Dissonance of the four generally received Evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity examined. By Edward Evanson, A.M. — Ipswich. Evanson was bold enough to reject Matthew, Mark and John, along with many of the Epistles, for reasons never sound but not always unworthy of serious attention. Of course, he held the spurious Scriptures to be later in origin. In 1820 ‘Probabilia de Evangelii et Epistolarum Joannis, Apostoli, indole et origine eruditorum judiciis modeste subjecit Carolus Theoph. Bretschneider.’ The author concludes at the end of 224 well-reasoned pages that the fourth Evangelist was “certainly neither John the Apostle, nor a companion of Jesus, nor a Christian sprung from Palestine and living there, nor a born Jew, but some other Christian skilled in Alexandrine doctrine, a presbyter (as he himself professes in later epistles), who in writing it (exarando) made use of both tradition and a written book. Most probably he lived in Egypt . . .” The author, who so modestly submitted this book to the judgments of the learned, afterward still more timidly recanted; nevertheless it brought “eternal honor to his name.” His arguments were repeatedly answered in detail, hardly in their entirety. But before and beside these two negative judgments as to the sources, there had spread itself an all-embracing skepsis anent the miraculous contents of the New Testament story. In the hands of the English Deists it took the form of mere mockery, of contemptuous denial or disproof, with little or no attempt to understand them genetically, and beyond this stage it has in many cases not advanced even to this day. But the tenderer, more sympathetic, German spirit sought earnestly to interpret the miraculous narratives, to show how they arose, to make clear what forms of religious consciousness had produced them. In this striving there was a possible basis for a steadily progressive intelligent critique and ultimate understanding of the New Testament, while in the brutal English negation there was none.
This German Rationalism had not gone to such alarming lengths without deadly violence no less to the spirit than to the letter of the sacred narratives, but it had been so insidious as to have remained almost unconscious of itself. It was Strauss who in his ‘Leben Jesu kritisch untersucht’ (1835) rather roughly tore away the mask and showed the “very Age and Bodie of the Time, his forme and pressure.” But the criticism of Strauss touched almost solely the contents of the Gospels, the profounder question of the sources it did hardly moot. Hence there was not only place but imperative call for Baur and the Tübingen School, with whom New Testament criticism in the more modern sense may be said to have begun.
The influence of their penetrating researches was clearly seen a generation later in Strauss' second ‘Life of Jesus for the German People’ (1864), less so in the brilliant romance of Renan, ‘La Vie de Jésus,’ in which keen sympathy, lively fancy and perfect style vainly strove to supply the place of exact scientific criticism. Meantime another great voice in theology, Albrecht Ritschl's, had in his ‘Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche’ (1857) openly renounced the Baurian two-term formula, Paulinism versus Petrinism, as unequal to the expression of the facts of early Christianity, and had founded the Ritschlian School, whose leaf even in the fifth decade is still green.
Practically all of this high argument, stretching through 70 years, has turned upon questions of date and authorship. The gravamen of the Tübingen contention consisted in referring the bulk of the New Testament to the 2d century and construing it as pseudepigraphic and in some sense born of the Paulo-Petrine controversy, reflecting it, or solving it, or smoothing it away. On the other hand, the Conservatives, largely aided by Ritschlians, held more or less firmly to the traditionary first century dates and authorship and minimized the antagonism between Jewish and Gentile Christianity.
All this has now been greatly changed. Dates and authors are not indeed unimportant, but they are no longer of prime significance. This follows at once from the principles already enunciated. If these much-debated compositions be really so highly compounded, then their dates and authors are not precisely determinable. Even if it were possible to discover the ultimate or the penultimate reviser, the question would remain as to the extent of his own contribution to the final whole; the fact that he wrote 150 A.D. might very well consist with the fact that some or most of his material appeared even in written form 150 B.C. Thus the units of the New Testament compound seem dissolving under our hands like an atom of radium, but without apparent loss of energy. With this regard the large enterprises of such as Volkmar and Zahn and Hilgenfeld are alike turned awry. At the same time, from this higher viewpoint we can see the partial justification of opposing theories, the half-truth in each term of the contradiction. Radicalism has been right in detecting indications of late origin in many or all of these canonic Scriptures; Conservatism has been equally right in emphasizing the presence of more far older elements. But neither the one nor the other has been justified in any inference from one part to its neighboring part, much less to the whole. Side by side in the faulted and folded strata of a mountain range we may find fossils separated by many thousands of years. Though the apocalyptic prophecies of Mark xiii be written before the catastrophe of Jerusalem, nothing follows as to the rest of the Gospel, which may have been written much later. Why may they not have been written at least in part, a hundred years earlier? They are not foretelling a second coming, but only The Coming of the Son of Man. Again, even if part of the parallels in Matthew and Luke do presuppose that catastrophe, which quivers still here and there in Matthew (Harnack, Chron., p. 654), it remains none the less true that these vivid pencilings may be only later touches of a revising hand. The body of the picture may still be generations older. In studying these Scriptures we are exploring the tossed ruins of a world, and each fragment must stand on its own merits. Questions then of age and authorship must still present themselves continually, but not under the old familiar forms.
There are two elements in the New Testament that are especially subject to considerations like the preceding: the philosophic, or rather theosophic, and the gnomic. These are present in large measure, even in portions mainly personal and narrative. With respect to both it seems reasonably certain that the age is often very great. The theosophic doctrines repeat themselves under endlessly varying forms in Gnosticism. This latter phenomenon is now referred with increasing positiveness and definiteness to the first Christian and even pre-Christian century. Its wide-reaching roots stretch themselves away back into the alluvium of the Tigris and the Euphrates (see Anz, ‘Ursprung des Gnostizismus’). As an offshoot or outgrowth or “acute secularization” (Harnack, D. G., I, 232) of Christianity, it is wholly inconceivable. The great historian of dogma himself annuls his own contention by recognizing a boundless extent of Vorstufen (op. cit., p. 226, 231 f.) for his secularization. These prestages were confessedly pre-Christian, or at the very latest syn-Christian, and since they contained demonstrably and indisputably in this form or in that nearly the whole body of New Testament theosophism and much more, it follows irresistibly that the derivation of Gnosticism from Christianity is in every sense impossible. The two historical products were practically synchronous; since many of the Gnostic central thoughts were certainly centuries pre-Christian, it may be possible to regard Christianity as emerging from Gnosticism, but it is surely impossible any longer to regard Gnosticism as diverging from Christianity. To this general state of case there is explicit testimony in the book of Acts in chapter viii, 9-24, where Simon Magus is represented as an elder contemporary of Peter and Philip. The first preaching of the Gospel in Samaria found him already preoccupying the ground, for many years he had been amazing the Samaritans, proclaiming some doctrine about the “Power of God, that called Mighty,” which we know to be a Gnostic slogan. Now this Simon figures in the Fathers as the well-head of Gnostic heresy; and it was both the habit and the dogmatic necessity of the Fathers to post-date, never to predate, the Heresies. Harnack admits the historicity and antiquity as well as the epic grandeur of Simon's attempt at universal religion. Strangely he regards this heresiarch, who had at the first preaching of the Cross for a “long time” been so omnipotent among the Samaritans as to be considered by them a god — this precursor of Peter he regards as a “counterpart to Jesus” (Gegenbild zu Jesus). That Simonism was the elder is clearly indicated in Acts viii, 13, where Simon accepts the preaching of the Gospel, believes, is baptized and attaches himself devotedly to Philip προσκαρτερῶν (τῷ φιλίππῳ). The close affinity of Simon's preaching with Peter's is unmistakably hinted in the disclaimer of Peter (viii, 21), “There is not for thee part or lot in this Word.” Moreover, we know from Origen (C. Cels. V, 62) that Simonians was, at least with the Gentiles, one of many names for Christians. This is not nearly all, however. We learn from Hippolytus that Simon was far from being the fountain-source of Gnostic heresy, at least of Gnosticism. He appears as only fifth in the chronological list. The first, antedating Gnosticism itself, and only later called Gnostics, are the all-important Naassenes, whence all the rest (Hip. Phil, v, 6). Compared with Naassenism, Simonism is visibly and palpably a much later development. Hence Naassenism is thrown hack beyond the beginning of our era. There is no evading this argument a fortiori; witness the utter bewilderment of Bunsen in his Tabulation (‘Hippolytus and his Age,’ I, p. 236), where he says the Gnostics (Hip's. I-IV) originated 70-99 A.D., but the later Simon belonged to the first age (27 to 65)!! With this early dating, and only therewith, do all the phenomena correspond. Now in this archaic pregnosticism we find already present, however inchoate, a goodly company of the most important and characteristic New Testament ideas: the Son of Man (Humanity=bar-nasha), the Man from Heaven, Citizen of Heaven, the Father, the new Jerusalem, the Choics, the Psychics, the Pneumatics, the Captives (Luke iv, 18; Rom. vii, 23), the Called, the Chosen, the Perfect, the Spirit, the new Birth, the Christ, he Jesus — all of these and more march in proud procession through the pages of Naassenism. The name Jesus for the Son of God is used in one of their hymns, which we have no reason for supposing post-Christian, which Harnack and Preuschen declare to be “ein naassenischer jedenfalls alter Psalm” (‘Die Ueberlieferung und der Bestand der altchristlichen Literatur,’ p. 168).
The momentous fact confirmatory is that all these notions are used in the New Testament as perfectly familiar, needing no explanation. This presupposes that these notions already had a history lying behind them. We may be perfectly sure that they had been formed and defined and bandied about in frequent discussion long before they became encysted in apophthegms of the earliest Christian literature.
With respect to the gnomic element the case is quite as strong. The starry words of the New Testament are evidently stones that have been polished to perfection by the attrition of ages. That this literary peculiarity is due to the personality of Jesus cannot be maintained. For since he must have spoken in Aramæan, not in Greek, the forms we have could be only translations. As reproducing words actually used by him, the renderings of Dalman and others have little value. Jesus and the Baptist are thought of as strongly contrasted, almost antipodal; but the style of the one is hardly distinguishable from the style of the other. Both denounce the Pharisees as “generations of vipers” (Matt, iii, 7, xxiii, 33), both use precisely the same words about the Tree and the Fire (Matt. iii, 10, vii, 19). The variations found in the synoptic reports are precisely what might be expected in such anthologies. Let any one compare corresponding proverbs in sister languages or even different forms in the same language, for example, as given in Bartlett's ‘Dictionary of Quotations,’ and he will find almost exactly the same phenomena presented.
At this point the recent papyrus finds, with their new ‘Sayings of (the) Jesus,’ are of striking interest. Clearly they are but disjecta membra of a once imposing organism. Such Logoi (not Logia) undoubtedly existed in that elder day in countless number. Oblivion has swallowed them up, as it has swallowed up so much of ancient literature. Here and there some few have escaped and are seen rari nantes in gurgite vasto. The salvage of our canonics is like the Seven Tragedies of Sophocles — 7 out of 80! We may rejoice, however, in the belief that what has survived is the best — not all of it the best, nor all of the best, — but on the whole the most worth saving. The Christian consciousness has sifted and resifted, has tested the spirits whether they be of God; it has polished and refined, has set and reset the precious stones, until the great citadel of its faith gleams and flashes like the bejeweled gates of the New Jerusalem.
Examples of the long-continued process of perfectionment lie open to behold in our Gospels. Thus, in Luke vi, 17 the Jesus descends into a plain and teaches a great multitude eagerly pressing upon him. But in Matt, v, 1 he withdraws from the multitude into “the mountain” (of new legislation) and teaches “the disciples” only. In Luke vi, 20 he declares, “Blessed the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”; but in Matt., “Blessed the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” In Luke, “Blessed they that hunger now, for ye shall be filled”; but in Matt., “Blessed they that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” In Luke, “Blessed they that weep now, for ye shall laugh”; but Matt., “Blessed they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” So, too, Matthew omits the “Woes” in Luke, supplying other beautiful beatitudes. That the Lucan form is older and has been immensely spiritualized in Matthew is too plain for argument, though it is not affirmed and not probable that Matthew has derived directly from Luke. Notice, too, that “they that mourn,” “the meek shall inherit the earth,” “they that thirst,” “the pure in heart” are all Old Testament gems (Is. lxi, 2, Ps. xxxvii, 11, Is. lv, 1, Jer. xxxi, 24, Ps. xxiv, 3, 4) gathered into a new brilliant. Compare also Ps. cix, 28, cxxvi, 5, 6 for the Lucan contrasts of weeping and laughing, cursing and blessing.
The primary form of the angelic song (L. ii, 14), it is now admitted, was “Glory on high to God, and on earth peace among men of (His) good will,” that is, His people Israel. Surely it is not hard to forgive the scribe who, by the omission of a single letter, ς, of the last word, transformed it into “Glory on high to God, and on earth peace, among men good will.”
Once more, the zenith of moral sublimity, before which Rousseau justly exclaimed, “Socrates died like a philosopher but Jesus like a God,” is attained in the prayer on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Nevertheless, it is now bracketed by Lachmann and Westcott and Hort as a “Western” interpolation. Finally, mark how the Lord's Prayer as given in Luke (xi, 2-4) has been expanded and ennobled in Matthew (vi, 9-13).
Such examples, which may be multiplied indefinitely, may teach us how erroneous it is to suppose that the extra-canonic “Sayings” are less primitive, because less perfect in form and substance; on the contrary, their comparative crudity far more reasonably argues their comparative originality; “first blade, then ear, then full corn in the ear” (Mark iv, 28).
We come now still nearer the heart of the matter. In most of the foregoing we may hope for the general concurrence of critics, save such as Nösgen of Rostock. Few of the enlightened would now deny that the general mind of “the Church” has been largely formative of our present Scriptures. The more advanced would concede that it has even taken an active part in shaping the canonical “Biographies” of Jesus. The recent powerful and convincing work of Wrede admits no doubt on this point. Hear some of his emphasized conclusions: “To write a Life of Jesus meant for Mark not to report something about Jesus, it meant rather quite simply to narrate a life full of Messianic manifestations” (‘Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien,’ 1901, p. 125). Again, p. 129: “The evangelic research of to-day proceeds throughout on the supposition that Mark in his historical narrative has the actual circumstances of the life of Jesus before his eyes, approximately distinctly, if not uninterruptedly. It presumes that he thinks outward from the Life of Jesus, that he motivates the individual features of his history according to the real circumstances of this life, according to the real thoughts and feelings of Jesus, that he concatenates in historic-psychologic sense the events that he sketches. In accord herewith it interprets, and in accord herewith it criticises the Gospel in detail. It assumes, to be sure, chronologic displacements, inaccuracies as to fact, alterations in the verbiage of utterances ascribed to Jesus, also an addendum of later dogmatic conception. But yet it operates everywhere with the psychologic necessities and probabilities that held for the personal actors in the given situations, it motivates in accordance therewith, it supplements the accounts with the consequences that flow therefrom naturally, and so covers with flesh the skeleton of dry dates. This view and this procedure must be recognized as false in principle. It must be said openly: Mark has no longer any conception (Anschauung) of the historical Life of Jesus.”
This is certainly one of the most important deliverances of recent criticism. The characterization of the prevailing investigation of the Gospels is perfect, but it is unfortunate that Wrede has contented himself with a bare negation, however unshakably established. “Herewith I will by no means prejudge the historic character of the materials, which I have not investigated. These materials may here be disregarded entirely” (p. 129). The same prevalent attitude has been clearly stated by Pfleiderer, though in much broader outline, when he declares with Strauss (against Ullmann) “the Christ of the Gospels is a creation of the faith of the church, but this faith is an effect of the person of the historical Jesus.” Again, “Historical science, which is concerned to understand Jesus as the originating source of Christianity.” Harnack, while strenuously maximizing the trustworthiness of the Gospels in der Hauptsache, admits that, “however, here and there are mirrored even in them the conditions of the original community and the experiences through which it passed in later times” (p. 15). In other words, the later apostolic Christian consciousness transfigured more or less the primitive “Life of Jesus.” Harnack would perhaps use still stronger language after reading Wrede. So we might go on quoting Feine, Bousset, Weiss, Keim, Jülicher, Hohzmann, Weizsäcker, Gunkel, Meinhold and the rest. Enough. The transforming activity of the early Christian consciousness they do not deny; how high it is to be rated is yet unsettled; but after Wrede's work it will never again be rated so low as before.
Nevertheless, all these critics up to this time are harmonious on one point, however discordant as to others; they will all agree with their great spokesman, Pfleiderer, that the end and aim of the historical science of the New Testament “is to understand Jesus as the originating source of Christianity.” How seriously historical science has taken this problem is above all evident in the great number of works, by men of first-class ability and intensely in earnest, bearing the title Life of Jesus or Life of Christ. ‘Das Leben Jesu’ was the title of the great apocalypse of David Friedrich Strauss. Since then we have had Renan's, and Keim's, and Weiss's, and Hase's, and Holtzmann's and Reville's, and the like, not to mention Farrar's, and Geikie's, and Edersheim's. Even Volkmar, who, in his ‘Marcus,’ had, along with Hoekstra and Loman, broken the path since trodden by Wrede, resolving so much of the biography into symbolism, Lehrgedichte, and the like, even Volkmar must yet write his Jesus Nazarenus, sounding often like a recantation. More than one of these works was of signal ability. Keim's was pre-eminently able. But even where no formal ‘Life’ was written, if the writer attempted any construction or interpretation of primitive Christianity, it was uniformly in terms of the Personality of Jesus. The consciousness of the Christ — that was the oldest Christianity, and, barring the acknowledged imperfection of the means and agents of transmission, that was the content of the Gospel as to us transmitted.
Here at least there is nothing in debate. Surely the problem has been clearly and definitely conceived; it has been firmly and resolutely grasped; the materials for solution are not lacking in abundance; the expenditure of the widest, deepest, exactest learning, of zeal and abilities of the highest order, has been prodigal, and the methods employed have been infinitely varied; — what then, we may and we must ask, has been the net result? The answer can not be doubtful: absolutely nil! There is no exaggeration in this statement. Thus far it has been found utterly impossible to rationalize the Life of Jesus. Certain negative critical results have obtained more or less general recognition in critical circles, but they do not, however, apparently, help us in the least “to understand Jesus as the originating source of Christianity.” On the contrary, they tend rather to make such understanding less and less possible. The theories developed in such capital works as Pfleiderer's ‘Das Urchristentum,’ or Harnack's ‘Das Wesen des Christentums,’ or Heinrici's ‘Das Urchristentum,’ or Réville's ‘Jesus de Nazareth,’ or McGiffert's ‘The Apostolic Age,’ or the cognate treatises of Schürer, Hausrath, Weizsäcker, Votaw and others, though lasting monuments of erudition, though brimful of ingenuity and sagacity, though widely illuminative and always pressing out further and further the bounds of our knowledge — all such are none the less disappointing as regards the capital point. In the last resort they are all equally impotent to make the Christian movement comprehensible or credible as an emanation from a personal focus, as a reaction from the Life and Death of the Man Christ Jesus. We might illustrate this fact by abundant citation, but there is no need to carry owls to Athens. Not one but must in the end beg the whole question, must abdicate the whole task, by assuming some uniqueness in this Personality, some absolute disparateness and incomparability with all other humanity. In other words, when under their inexorable analysis every trace of the miraculous has vanished alike from Gospels and Acts, from Epistles and Apocalypse, there remains unshaken in tremendous majesty the one supreme Miracle of Miracles, the Heart of Heart in the New Testament, without Whom all other miracles are vain and contradictory, with Whom they acquire consistency and awful significance. The crumbling away of these outer parapets but lifts aloft into still bolder relief the impregnable strength of this inmost citadel.
The case then stands thus:
If Jesus be such a unique Personality as everywhere demanded By critical theory, in last analysis incomparable with the sons of men, then He was in some sense superhuman, it makes no difference in what sense, and neither His words nor His deeds are to be measured by the standard of men. Hence His miracles, one and all, remain miracles but cease to be wonders. We know of no reason why He should not have been born of a virgin, and walked on the waves, and raised the dead, and ascended into heaven, and endowed His disciples with any desirable spiritual gifts, and transmitted the Power of the Keys to an endless series of infallible vicegerents. Nay, it becomes antecedently highly probable that He would and did do all this and much more; we should reasonably expect such a unique extra-natural being to do unique extra-natural things. We have no ground at all, then, for extruding or slurring or minimizing the non-natural element in the Scriptures, but every ground for retaining and accenting and even magnifying it. Accordingly, the strictly orthodox view appears alone consistent and rational, the liberal theology must ultimately commit suicide, however skilfully it may postpone the dénouement to the last page of the last chapter. The unescapable question, “What think ye of the Christ?” must sooner or later precipitate the catastrophe. Greatly then as we admire and applaud the most enlightened scholarship of Europe and America, we must admit that at this critical pivotal point it has no standing before the bar of logic. This yea-and-nay criticism has now for years been bankrupt
When so many wingéd hounds of Zeus thus find that their quarry forever eludes them, the suggestion is inevitable that there is something radically wrong in their method of pursuit, that in some way their finest sense has betrayed them. We hold that the nature of their error is now at length an open secret. They have sought to explain Christianity as an emanation from a single individual human focus, as the reaction upon history and environment of a single human personality, they have sought “to understand Jesus as the originating source of Christianity” — they have failed and they must forever fail: for no such explanation is possible, because no such origination was real. Over against all such attempts we oppose the fact that every day comes to clearer and clearer light, that now flashes continually into evidence around the whole horizon of investigation, the fact that was perceived nearly a decade ago, but whose effective proclamation called for the publication of a series of preparatory investigations, the fact that the Genesis of Christianity must be sought in the collective consciousness of the first Christian and immediately pre-Christian centuries, that in the Syncretism of that epoch of the amalgamation of faiths, when all the currents of philosophic and theosophic thought dashed together their waters in the vast basin of the Roman circum-mediterranean empire, was to be sought and found the possibility and the actuality of a new faith of Universal Humanity, that should contain something appealing to the head and the heart of all men, from slave to emperor, a faith in which there should be no longer male and female, Jew and Greek, bond and free, but all should be one by virtue of a common Humanity of the ageless, timeless, spaceless Son of Man. It is only as the outcome of this Syncretism, as the final efflorescence of the Judæo-Greco-Roman Spirit, of the Asiatic-European Soul, that Christianity is wholly intelligible and infinitely significant; the notion that it is an individual Palestinian product is the Carthago delenda of New Testament criticism.
That the drift of the most advancing thought and the most penetrating research is all in the direction indicated, can not escape the notice of the reader of the most recent works of such as Pfleiderer, Gunkel, Bousset, Zimmern, Heitmueller, Dieterich, Seeberg, Wrede, Kreyenbühl, Usener, and their peers. Such is the unmistakable trend of historico-religious investigation. But this latter, is very slow, and naturally very slow, to cut loose from the ancient moorings, to weigh anchor and commit itself to seas entirely unknown. Thus even Gunkel hesitated long (“nach langem Zaudern und manchen Erwägungen”) before publishing his ‘Zum religionsgeschichtlichen Verständnis des Neuen Testamentes’ (1903). He has therein spoken out bravely the great word (p. 95), “Christianity is a syncretic religion,” even as Bousset had already declared: “Judaism, however, was the retort in which the different elements were assembled” (Rel. des Judentums, p. 493). Nevertheless, Gunkel tells us “all this has been transferred to Jesus,” “When then Jesus appeared in his superhuman sublimity,” and it avails little to add “that the christologic problem of the present is not merely historic and can not be solved in purely historical way”; so that, after all, we are advanced hardly an inch beyond the elder standpoint. In the same spirit Wernle declares that “Paul's utterance concerning Jesus was at bottom a myth, a drama, to which Jesus gave the name” (329). None the less, Wernle still deduces Christianity from this uniquely but merely human Jesus.
The amazing state of case, then, is this: The most piercing criticism detects nearly the whole body of Christian doctrine and practice in the mixed religions of the day, even the sacraments themselves. None of this, it feels sure, “can be derived from the teaching of Jesus; they show us how Christianity in its infancy was drawn into the chaos of Oriental religions” (Wernle). Nevertheless, it assures us that this teaching, this Jesus, remains the heart's core of Christianity. When now we ask, what then was this teaching, what this Personality? the answer rendered is arbitrariness itself. Since the critic feels constrained to explain 99 per cent of Christian theory and practice as derived from Judaeo-pagan sources, as merely “transferred to Jesus,” he is at liberty to choose the remaining 1 per cent as he will; he makes of the teaching precisely what he thinks it ought to have been, he declares Jesus did or did not teach this or that, because it conforms or does not conform to his idea of Jesus! But whence this idea? Certainly not from the Gospels, for these are saturated through and through with “transferred” elements; the only one that professes to be based on personal knowledge, the Fourth, is exactly the one that is rejected in toto as history, even by such a conservative critic as Harnack (“Especially the Fourth Gospel . . . . can not be used as an historic source in the ordinary sense of the word” — D. W. d. C, p. 13)! No standard, then, is left but the caprice of the critic; he makes his own Jesus and conforms the Gospel thereto! If the Gospel contains contradictory or superfluous elements, they have been imported from the surrounding “chaos”! If it omits certain necessary or desirable features, it was because the religious consciousness of the writers was not free to assimilate them, but was bound fast by the historical conditions that obtained! It is plain at a glance that nothing can ever come of such criticism, where the “poverty of the ascertained historical materials” is turned into endless imaginary wealth by “the uncontrolled power of combination and divination” (Pfleiderer). The focus, the burning point of investigation, must then be this Personality, which is thus the irresoluble residuum of the most inexorable analysis. But we may be absolutely sure that nothing can ever come of the arbitrary methods in vogue, all of whose airy constructions of the “Nazarene”
|“||Are but dust that rises up|
And is lightly laid again.”
Against every such theory of a unique deified Man, still more against the recent crudities of Kalthoff (Jesus merely a social-ethical Ideal!), while expressly holding important collateral questions in abeyance, it seems that criticism must now explicitly postulate the aboriginal Godhood of the Centre of Christianity, as appears at least from these considerations:
1. The mere human Personality, which each critic postulates according to his own convenience, makes no great figure in the early propaganda. Neither in the book of Acts, nor in the Epistles, nor in the oldest extra-canonic literature, can the keenest eye detect the after-effect of “the Carpenter,” his words, his deeds, his life, his death; the Jesus, the Christ is everywhere conspicuous, towering like the Matterhorn, but everywhere supremely as an object of worship, as an over-earthly supernal Being, as a God (The Outlook, 66, p. 686 f., 1900). The greatest early preacher, The Apostle, apparently cared little or naught for the earthly history of Jesus and preached him solely as a Divinity. When Harnack and the rest talk of “the impression that he made upon his disciples and which they propagated,” they forget the Pauline injunction not to be wise above what is written. Certainly, any such human Person as they assume must have made and left a regulative, overpowering and ineffaceable impression; the fact then that no such impression at all is anywhere discernible, but quite the contrary, must teach us to revise their assumptions.
2. The preaching of “the Jesus” was seemingly pre-Christian. We have already mentioned the occurrence of the name and the idea in “an ancient psalm of the Naassenes” (Harnack), which we have no right to regard as post-Christian. It also occurs repeatedly, at least four times, in the ‘Zauberpapyri’ lately brought to light, especially at line 3120 of the great Paris Papyrus edited by C. Wessely, in a long “Hebraic Logos” which shows no trace of Christian influence, which is expressly attributed to “the pure men,” and which the great master, Dieterich, positively ascribes to the (pre-Christian) Essenes. At line 3119-20 we read . . . . . ὁρκίζω σε κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῶν ἑβρίαων Ἰησοῦ . . . . “I adjure thee by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus.”
As the end of controversy on this point we cite Acts xviii, 25, where of the learned and eloquent and zealous Apollos of Alexandria it is said, “He was wont to speak and teach accurately the doctrine of the Jesus (ἐλάλει καὶ ἐδίδασκεν ἀκριβῶς τὰ περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ), knowing only the baptism of John.” The phrase italicized excludes all possibility of biographical reference to the Jesus of the Gospels, and shows incontestably that the cult of the Jesus was fervently propagated far and wide in ignorance of any earthly Life of Jesus.
3. The Epithet “Nazorean” (Νασαραῖος, Ναζαραῖος, Ναζωραῖος, Ναζαρηνός) is not derived from Nazareth, a seeming topographic fancy, but is a divine appellative derived from the Old-Semitic stem NaSaR, meaning to keep, guard, preserve, frequent in the cuneiform inscriptions (na-ṣa-ru) as far back as 2250 B.C., constant in the Old Testament, where Nôṣrîm means watchers, precisely the term by which the Talmud designated the Christians (NaZoReans). The epithet Nazorean would mean then Servator, almost the same as Salvator (Jesus), which are both used to render the Greek Σωτήρ. The Syriac form Naṣaryá suggests, but does not prove decisively, that the termination refers to the divine name Yah. So that Naṣaryá would mean Servator — Yah. Consult The Monist, January 1905, pp. 25-45, “Der vorchristliche Jesus,” 42-70.
4. The “Naṣaraioi” were certainly “before Christ” and “knew not Christ,” to quote Epiphanius (Pan. Haer. xxix, 6). The name is the same as Naṣarya (Syriac for Nazarene) and indicates that they worshipped God (Yah) under a particular aspect or Person, namely, as Protector, Preserver (N—Ṣ—R). The notions of Servator (Νασαρ—αιος) and Salvator (Ἰησους) being hardly distinguishable, we naturally get the double title Jesus Nazarean. The fusion of this notion of Saviour with the more orthodox notion of Messiah (Chrestos) gave rise to the slogan of Paulinism, the Jesus — the Christ; this fusion was perhaps distinctively the work of Paul.
5. Primitive Christianity seems not unifocal but multifocal in origin and development. It does not emerge full-fledged at Jersualem and encompass the Mediterranean with the flight of an eagle. The “astoundingly swift” (Heinrici) spread of the Gospel seems only apparent. In reality it seems everywhere in the air, a divine contagion. It springs up almost simultaneously in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Damascus, in Alexandria, in Rome, in Crete, in Libya, in Ephesus, in Corinth — wherever in the Dispersion the seed was sown. The book of Acts makes two attempts to explain this multifocal fact in accord with its own unifocal theory. It assembles at Pentecost “in Jerusalem, dwellers, Jews, devout men from every nation that is under heaven,” who, “each one in his own dialect, heard them (the Apostles) speaking.” The other is found in the mighty persecution that arose against the Church in Jerusalem after Stephanos was crowned with martyrdom. “All were dispersed except the Apostles.” But these were really the only or at least the principal offenders, the very ones that would have been dispersed first of all. Immediately after, the Church had peace, was builded up and multiplied (Acts ix, 31), and, not many years after, the believers in Jerusalem number many myriads, all zealous for the law (Acts xxi, 20). The fact of multiplicity is clearly implied in these abortive attempts to trace it back to a higher unity. The other evidences are strewn through the book of Acts; they are scattered and broken lights, but gathered up and focused by the lens of criticism they glow with surprising brightness.
These results, set forth and grounded in ‘Der vorchristliche Jesus’ (1906-11), were reinforced and greatly extended in ‘Ecce Deus’ (1911-12), in which it was maintained (‘Zweifellos mit Recht’ — M. Dibelius in Harnack's ‘Theologische Literaturzeitung’) that:
6. Proto-christianity was a protest against idolatry, a crusade for Monotheism, the “Eternal Gospel,” “Fear God and give Him glory” (Rev. xiv, 6, 7), and as such swept round the Mediterranean in triumph. It was also held that:
7. Primitive Christianity was esoteric, heard in the ear, and only later proclaimed on the housetop.
8. Its language was largely parable and allegory and expressive symbols, representing the pagan world as a leper or blind or lame or deaf or even dead, or still more as possessed by demons (which symbolize heathen gods), and most pathetically as a sinful (adulterous) but repentant woman.
9. In the Gospel, sin is pre-eminently idolatry with its attendant vices; repentance is return “from the polytheistic error,” and faith is the belief in and the worship of the one true God.
Around these positions there has raged (since 1911 at least, till the outbreak of the World War) a very lively strife and there has grown up an extensive literature mainly in continental Europe, without, however, making any large addition to our knowledge. By odds the most notable volumes are the ‘Kyrios Christos’ of Prof. W. Bousset, reviewed in the Monist under the title “Polyxena Christiana,” and the ‘Agnostos Theos’ of Prof. E. Norden, both of which, under disguise of “controverting,” go far toward confirming the positions enumerated.
This later conception of Proto-christianity lifts it entirely out of the domain of mere morality into which the well-meant liberalism of the 19th century had sunk it, and restores it, under wholly new auspices, to its elder rank as the greatest, and in its central aspect, the final religious revolution of the ages.
So far the investigation has been carefully made, and so much appears “very probable.” Still other kindred inquiries are in progress, but of these the results must be awaited. Enough, however, seems established to show that the “hopeless confusion” of Rationalism, in its century-old essay to interpret Christianity from the Man Christ Jesus as the assumed sole human personal animating centre, must remain forever confused and hopeless, for no such interpretation can ever be correct. On the contrary, this most interesting and most important of all historic phenomena is comprehensible and must be comprehended as a total product of the totality of historic-religious-philosophic-ethic conditions prevailing around the Mediterranean, as a phenomenon which itself came not with observation, so that no man could say “Lo here!” or “Lo there!” but which emerged to view from the fermentation of three centuries and lightened like the dawn of a polar day round the whole horizon from the East even unto the West. This prodigy, this heir of all the ages, appeared at first under many forms, with many slogans and battle-cries, of very varying degrees of worth. It was the work especially of the second century to rally the straggling and sometimes contending arrays under one banner, to select and unify and communicate what was best in each, and to reject and excommunicate what was bad or irreconcilable. The organic result was the Old Catholic Church — as its name implies, the totalization of a host of originally more or less independent elements. Here, however, we are brought to the borderland of theology, and here we must pause, for that border we dare not cross. Many important consequences seem to present themselves naturally, but these must be left for the reader to recognize. If the deep-eddying stream of criticism, whose swift descent we have followed through the century, has now at last surmounted and surpassed every bulwark of tradition, we need only reflect that it is a cleansing and a fertilizing flood, the river of the waters of life, which has been poured abroad over exhausted fields, and that the inundated plains will blossom and brighten anew with abundant blessing.
Bibliography. — Aal, ‘Der Logos’ (1896-99);
Baldensperger, ‘Die messianisch-apokalyptischen
Hoffnungen des Judentums’ (1903);
Blass, ‘Acta Apostolorum’ (1895); Bousset,
‘Textkritische Studien zum Neuen Testament’
(1894); Bugge, ‘Die Hauptparabeln Jesu’
(1903); Clemen, ‘Paulus’ (1904); Brandt,
‘Die Evangelische Geschichte’ (1893); Cheyne,
‘Bible Problems’ (1905); Deissmann,
‘Bibelstudien’ (1895); Dieterich, ‘Abraxas’ (1891);
‘Nekyia’ (1893); ‘Eine Mithrasliturgie’
(1903); von Dobschütz, ‘Probleme des
apostolischen Zeitalters’ (1904); Drummond, ‘An
Inquiry, etc., into the Fourth Gospel’ (1903);
Feine, ‘Jesus Christus und Paulus’ (1902);
Fiebig, ‘Altjüdische Gleichnisse und die
Gleichnisse Jesu’ (1904); Friedländer, ‘Der
vorchristliche jüdische Gnosticismus’ (1898);
Gregory, ‘Textkritik des Neuen Testamentes’
(1900); Harnack, ‘Die Missions und die
Ausbreitung des Christentums’ (1902);
Hawkins, ‘Horæ Synopticæ’ (1899); Heitmueller,
‘Im Namen Jesu’ (1903); Hilgenfeld, ‘Die
tchte des Urchristenthums’ (1884);
Holtzmann, ‘Lehrbuch der Neutestamentlichen
Theologie’ (1897); Jülicher, ‘Die Gleichnisreden
Jesus’ (1899); Kreyenbühl, , ‘Das Evangelium
der Wahrheit’ (1900); Lietzmann, ‘Der
Menschensohn’ (1896); Lightfoot, ‘Biblical
Essays’ (1893); Loisy, ‘L'Evangile et
L'Église (1902); ‘Le quatrième Évangile’
(1903); Loman, ‘Quaestiones Paulinæ’ (1882-86);
‘Nalatenschap’ (1899); Van Manen,
‘Paulus’ (1890); Mayor, ‘Epistle of Saint
James’ (1892); Merx, ‘Die vier kanonischen
Evangelien’ (1897); Nestle, ‘Einführung in
das griechische Neue Testament’ (1899);
Pfleiderer, ‘Der Paulinismus’ (1873); ‘Das
Christusbild’ (1904); Reitzenstein, ‘Poimandres’
(1904); Schmidt, C, ‘Acta Pauli’
(1905); Schmidt, N., in ‘Encyc. Bibl.’;
Schmiedel, ‘Winer's Grammatik’ (1894),
‘Encyc. Bibl.’ passim; Seeberg, ‘Der Katechismus
der Urchristenheit’ (1903); Soden, ‘Die
Schriften des Neuen Testaments’ (1902);
Soltau, ‘Unsere Evangelien’ (1901); Spitta,
‘Geschichte und Literatur des Urchristentums’
(1893-96-1901); Usener, ‘Religionsgeschichtliche
Untersuchungen’ (1889): Weiss, ‘Die
Offenbarung Johannis’ (1904); Wendland,
Σωτήρ (in Preuschen's ‘Zeitschrift,’ 1904);
Zahn, ‘Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen
Kanons’ (1888). Commentaries: Hand-Kommentar,
Meyer's, Zahn's Schanz's, International
Critical, Strack-Zöckler; ‘Encyclopædia
Biblica’ (edited by T. K. Cheyne and J. S.
Black, 1899); ‘Dictionary of the Bible’ (edited
by J. Hastings and J. A. Selbie, 1898).
Intro troductions: Bacon (1902); Baljon (1893);
Hilgenfeld (1875); Holtzmann (1892); Salmon
(1885); Trenkle (1897); Weiss (1897); Zahn
(1897); Jülicher (1893).
Among more recent works should be mentioned in first place Abbott's, E. A., ‘Diatessarica’ (1900-17, a mass of microscopic philologic gleanings, garnered from unharvested fields often remote, a many-volumed work exceedingly rich in premises but poor in conclusions, yet notable for its recognition of Symbolism in the Gospels); also Badé, F. W., ‘The Old Testament in the Light of To-Day’ (1915); Barnes, A. S., ‘The Early Church in the Light of the Monuments’ (1913); Clark, A. C., ‘The Primitive Text of Acts’ (1914); Clemen, C., ‘Religionsgeschichtliche Erklärung des Neuen Testamentes’ (1909); Conybeare, F. C., ‘Myth, Magic, and Morals’ (1910); Eucken, R., ‘Can We Still Be Christians’ (1914); Gressmann, H., ‘Der Ursprung der israelitisch-jüdischen Eschatologie’ (1905); Harnack, A., ‘The Sayings of Jesus’ (1908); Kautsky, K., ‘Der Ursprung des Christentums’ (1908); Loisy, A., ‘A Propos d'Histoire des Religions’ (1911); Loofs, F., ‘What is the Truth about Jesus Christ?’ (1913); McCabe, J., ‘The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels’ (1914); Minocchi, S., ‘Il Panteon — Origini del Cristianesimo’ (1914); Moffatt, J., ‘Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament’ (1914); Reitzenstein, R., ‘Die Hellenistichen Mysterienreligionen’ (1910); Robertson, J. M., ‘The Historical Jesus’ (1916); Schweitzer, A., ‘Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung’ (particularly pp. 444-642, on “Die neueste Bestreitung der Geschichtlichkeit,” etc., 1912); id., ‘Die Geschichte der paulinischen Forschung’ (1911); many controversial articles in the Monist, the Open Court and elsewhere; von Soden, ‘Urchristliche Literaturgeschichte’ (1905); Usener, H., ‘Das Weihnachtsfest’ (1910); Wernle, P., ‘The Beginnings of Christianity’ (1903); Dujardin, E., ‘La Source du Fleuve Chrétien’ (tr. 1911); Whittaker, T, ‘Priests, Philosophers and Prophets’ (1911); Anon, ‘Markus-Redaktören’ (Stockholm 1916). See also Bible, Vol. III, p. 638.
- So Jerome's aphorism: tot enim sunt exemplaria pene quot codices, in his Preface to the Gospels, addressed to Pope Damasus.
- As by Teschendorf, Westcott and Hort, Weiss, von Soden.
- Smith, ‘The Pauline MSS. F and G,’ Am. Jour. of Theo., July and October 1903.
- Smith, ‘Unto Romans,’ J B L, Vol. XXI, 1902, Part II, pp. 117-169.
- In the same spirit King James' Translators, in their ‘Address to the Reader,’ wrote wisely and well.
- As Holsten was led to observe — Holsten, the Doctor subtilissimus of Protestantism, the matchless master of exegesis, whose imposing reconstructions of Paulinism, by their very perfection, constitute the reductio ad absurdum of the premises and methods he employs.
- It is indeed plain on its face that a doctrine must in general antedate its literary expression, and when we find this expression in a highly composite, apophthegmatic form, we may be sure it has been forged on the common anvil beneath the alternate strokes of more than one hammer.
- Unless, perhaps, in the unicapitulars, as Philemon, Jude, 3 John.
- The Teaching of the Apostles, pp. 83-87.
- For Persia the monumental work of Cumont is fundamental and exhaustive. Leaving aside the surmises and parallels of Seydel and Hopkins (“Christ in India,” in his ‘India Old and New,’ 1901), compare the circumspect dissertation of Van den Bergh van Eysinga, ‘Indische invloeden op oude Christelijke verhalen’ (1901), and articles by Oldenberg in the Theologische Literaturzeitung and the Deutsche Rundschau. Consult Edmunds' “Buddhist and Christian Gospels” (1905).
- But we speak divine wisdom (Θεοῦ σοφίαν) in mystery, 1 Cor. ii, 7.
- The formula “(The) Jesus says” seems to stand on precisely the same footing as the Old Testament parallels. “Thus saith Jehovah,” and the like. Against Soltau.
- A like remarkable refluence of critical consciousness made itself known in Loman, the Tiresias of the North, especially in controversy with Scholten. These keen critics, beside whom must be named their unhappy master, Bruno Bauer, had strange forebodings, extraordinary glimpses of the truth — they saw visions, they dreamed dreams. But their glittering structures lacked the solid foundation of scientific fact. No wonder then that they have sunk in heap.
- Even criticism in the bosom of the Church of England snares now but two or at most but four of the miracles: The Incarnation and the Resurrection, with their “incidents,” the Virgin Birth and the Ascension. Consult the controversy in ‘The Nineteenth Century and After.’
- ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου = Bar-nasha = Human Being.
- Most characteristically Bousset adds: “Then resulted through a creative miracle the new formation of the Gospel.”
- The earlier form, see Blass Gram. d. nt Gr. § 27, 4. Compare also Ps. xxxiv. 8, quoted by Clem. Alex., Adm. in Gent. 56 C Sylb., “taste and see that Christos is God,” where the Septuagint has Chrestos (good) is the Lord.
- As is proved by microscopic scrutiny of Acts.