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RETURN TO GALILEE.
On their return from Egypt, after the death of Herod
(which took place in the ensuing year, though
the parents of Jesus did not leave Egypt till the accession of Archelaus), Joseph, justly apprehensive that the son might inherit the jealousy and relentless disposition of the father, of which he had already given fearful indications, retired to his former residence in Galilee, under the less suspicious dominion of Herod Antipas. There the general prejudice against Galilee might be their best security; and the universal belief that it was in Judæa that the great king was to assume his sovereignty, would render their situation less perilous; for it was the throne of the monarch of Judah, the dominion of the ruler in Jerusalem, rather than the government of the Galilean tetrarch, which would have been considered in danger from the appearance of the Messiah.
tian history. See also Eisenmenger, i. The answer of Origen to this Jewish
invention is sensible and judicious. The Jewish fiction of the birth of The Christians, if such a story had Jesus is at least as old as the time of been trur, would have invented some Celsus (Origen contra Cels. 1), but thing more directly opposed to the real bears the impress of hostile malice, truth; they would not have agreed in assigning as his parent a Roman so far with the relation, but rather soldier. This is the fable which was carefully suppressed every allusion to perpetuated from that time by Jewish the extraordinary birth of Jesus. animosity, till it assumed its most | Έδύναντο γαρ άλλως ψευδοποιείσθαι obnoxious form in the Toldoth Jesu. | διά το σφοδρά παράδοξον την ιστοHow much more natural and credible | ρίαν, και μη ώσπερεί ακουσίως συγthan the minute detail which so ob- καπαθέσθαι ότι ουκ από συνηθών viously betrays later and hostile in- | ανθρώποις γάμων και Ιησους εγενήθη. vention, the vague inquiry of his own Contra Cels, i. 32. compatriots" Is not this the car- 8 Matt, xi, 19, 23. Luke xi. 40, penter's son ?” Matt. xiii. 55.
At the time when this part of the present work was written, the ultra-rationalist work of Professor Paulus, the Leben Jesu (Heidelberg, 1828), was the most recent publication. Since that time have appeared, the Life of Jesus, Das Leben Jesu, by Dr. D. F. Strauss (2nd edition, Tubingen, 1837), and the counter publication of Neander, Das Leben Jesu (Berlin, 1837); to say nothing of a great number of controversial pamphlets and reviews, arising out of the work of Dr. Strauss.
This work (consisting of two thick and closely printed volumes of nearly 800 pages each) is a grave and elaborate exposition of an extraordinary hypothesis, which Dr. Strauss offers, in order to reconcile Christianity with the advancing intelligence of mankind, which is weary and dissatisfied with all previous philosophical and rationalist theories. Dr. Strauss solemnly declares, that the essence of Christianity is entirely independent of his critical remarks. natural birth of Christ, his miracles, his resurrection and ascension, remain eternal truths, however their reality, as historical facts, may be called in question.” He refers to a dissertation at the close of his work, “ to show that the doctrinal contents of the Life of Jesus are uninjured; and that the calmness and cold-bloodedness with which his criticism proceeds in its dangerous operations can only be explained by his conviction, that it is not in the least prejudicial to Christian faith.” That dissertation, which opens (t. ii. p. 691) with a singularly eloquent description of the total destruction which this remorseless criticism has made in the ordinary grounds of
6. The super
• Christi übernatürliche Geburt, heiten, so sehr ihre Wirklichkeit als seine Wunder, seine Auferstehung und historische Facta angezweifelt werden Himmelfahrt bleiben ewige Wahr- | mag. Vorrede, xii.
HYPOTHESIS OF DR. STRAUSS.
Christian faith and practice, I have read with much attention. But what resting-place it proposes to substitute for Christian faith, I have been unable to discover ; and must acknowledge my unwillingness to abandon the firm ground of historical evidence, to place myself on any sublime but unsubstantial cloud which may be offered by a mystic and unintelligible philosophy. Especially as I find Dr. Strauss himself coolly contemplating at the close of his work the desolating effects of his own arguments, looking about in vain for the unsubstantial tenets which he has extirpated by his uncompromising logic; and plainly admitting, that if he has shattered to pieces the edifice of Christianity, it is not his fault.
But Christianity will survive the criticism of Dr. Strauss.
I would, however, calmly consider the first principles of this work, which appear to me, in many respects, singularly narrow and unphilosophical—by no means formed on an extensive and complete view of the whole case, and resting on grounds which, in my judgment, would be subversive of all history.
The hypothesis of Dr. Strauss is, that the whole history of our Lord, as related in the Gospels, is mythic, that is to say, a kind of imaginative amplification of certain vague and slender traditions, the germ of which it is now impossible to trace. These myths are partly what he calls historical, partly philosophic, formed with the design of developing an ideal character of Jesus, and of harmonising that character with the Jewish notions of the Messiah. In order to prove this, the whole intermediate part of the work is a most elaborate, and it would be uncandid not to say, a singularly skilful examination of the difficulties and discrepancies in the Gospels; and a perpetual endeavour to show in what manner and with what design each separate myth assumed its present form.
Arguing on the ground of Dr. Strauss, I would urge the following objections, which appear to me fatal to his whole system :
First, The hypothesis of Strauss is unphilosophical, because it assumes dogmatically the principal point in dispute. His first canon of criticism is (t. i. p. 103), that wherever there is anything supernatural, angelic appearance, miracle, or interposition of the Deity, there we may presume a myth. Thus he concludes, both against the supernaturalists, as they are called in Germany, and the general mass of Christian believers of all sects in this country, that any recorded interference with the ordinary and experienced order of causation must be unhistorical and untrue ; and even against the
HARMONY OF EVANGELICAL RECORDS.
rationalists, that these wonders did not even apparently take place, having been supposed to be miraculous, from the superstition or ignorance of physical causes among the spectators: they cannot be even the honest, though mistaken, reports of eye-witnesses.
But secondly, The belief in some of those supernatural events, e.g. the resurrection, is indispensable to the existence of the religion. To suppose that this belief grew up, after the religion was formed; to assume these primary facts as after-thoughts, seems to me an absolute impossibility. But if they, or any one of them, were integral parts of the religion from its earliest origin, though they may possibly have been subsequently embellished, or unfaithfully recorded in the Gospels, their supernatural character is no evidence that they are so.
Thirdly, Besides this inevitable inference, that the religion could not have subsequently invented that which was the foundation of the religion,—that these things must have been the belief of the first Christian communities,—there is distinct evidence in the Acts of the Apostles (though Dr. Strauss, it seems, would involve that book in the fate of the Gospels), in the apostolical Epistles, and in every written document and tradition, that they were so. The general harmony of these three distinct classes of records, as to the main preternatural facts in the Gospels, proves incontestably that they were not the slow growth of a subsequent period, embodied in narratives composed in the second century.
For fourthly, Dr. Strauss has by no means examined the evidence for the early existence of the Gospels with the rigid diligence which characterises the rest of his work. I think he does not fairly state that the early notices of the Gospels, in the works of the primitive Fathers, show not only their existence but their general reception among the Christian communities, which imply both a much earlier composition and some strong grounds for their authenticity. As to the time when the Gospels were composed, his argument seems to me self-destructive. The later he supposes them to have been written, the more impossible (considering that the Christians were then so widely disseminated in Europe and Asia) is their accordance with each other in the same design or the same motives for fiction : if he takes an earlier date, he has no room for his long process of mythic development. In one place he appears to admit that the three first Gospels, at least, must have been completed between the death of our Lord and the destruction of Jerusalem, less than forty
TRUTH OF THE GOSPELS.
years. (I myself consider their silence, or rather the obscure and confused prophetic allusions to that event, as absolutely decisive on this point, with regard to all the four.) But is it conceivable that in this narrow period, this mythic spirit should have been so prolific, and the primitive simplicity of the Christian history have been so embellished, and then universally received by the first generation of believers ?
The place, as well as the period, of their composition, is encumbered with difficulties according to this system. Where were they written? If all, or rather the three first, in Palestine, whence their general acceptance without direct and acknowledged authority? If in different parts of the world, their general acceptance is equally improbable; their similarity of design and object, altogether unaccountable.
Were they written with this mythic latitude by Judaising or Hellenising Christians? If by Judaising, I should expect to find far more of Judaism, of Jewish tradition, usage, and language, as appears to have been the case in the Ebionitish Gospel; if by Hellenising, the attempt to frame the myths in accordance with Jewish traditions is inconceivable. They Judaise too little for the Petrine Christians (that is, those who considered the Gospel in some sort a re-enactment of the Mosaic Law), too much for the followers of St. Paul, who rejected the Law.
The other canons of Dr. Strauss seem to me subversive of all history. Everything extraordinary or improbable, the prophetic anticipations of youthful ambition, complete revolution in individual character (he appears to allude to the change in the character of the Apostles after the resurrection, usually, and in my opinion justly, considered as one of the strongest arguments of the truth of the narrative), though he admits that this canon is to be applied with caution, are presumptive of a mythic character.
b Dr. Strauss, for instance, asserts Messiah, a Judaising and an antiall the passages relating to the mira- docetic sect. See vol. i. pp. 446-448. culous birth of Christ (the first chap- We must find time not merely for the ters of St. Matthew and St. Luke), and growth and development of both nothose which relate His baptism in St. tions, but for their blending into one John, to have proceeded from two dis- system, and the general adoption of tinct classes of Christians, differing that system by the Christian commaterially, or rather directly opposed munities. to each other in their notions of the