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incredulity, this cannot be denied. The prodigies which are related by grave historians, as taking place at the death of Cæsar; those which Josephus, who is disposed to rationalise many of the miracles of the early history of his people, describes during the capture of Jerusalem, are enough, out of the countless instances which could be adduced, to determine the question. But if the term mythic be more properly applied to that idealisation, that investing religious doctrines in allegory or symbol ; above all, that elevating into a deity a man only distinguished for moral excellence (the deification of the Roman emperors was a political act), this appears to me to be repugnant to the genius of the time and of the country. Among the Jewish traditions in the Talmud, there is much fable, much parable, much apologue; as far as I can discern, nothing strictly speaking mythic. Philo's is a kind of poetico-philosophic rationalism. The later legends, of Simon Magus, Alexander in Lucian, and A pollonius of Tyana, are subsequent inventions, after the imaginative impulse given by Christianity, possibly imitative of the Gospels (1).

I would be understood, however, as laying the least stress upon this argument, as this tendency to imaginative excitement and creation does not depend so much on the age as on the state of civilisation, which perhaps in the East, has never become completely exempt from this tendency.

But I cannot admit the spurious Gospels, which seem to me the manifest offspring of Gnostic and heretical sects, and to have been composed at periods which historical criticism might designate from internal evidence, though clearly mythical, to involve the genuine Gospels in the same proscription. To a discriminating and unprejudiced mind, I would rest the distinction between mythical and non-mythical on the comparison between the apocryphal and canonical Gospels.

Neander, in my opinion, has exercised a very sound judgment in declining direct controversy with Dr. Strauss; for controversy, even conducted in the calm and Christian spirit of Neander, rarely works conviction, except in those who are already convinced. He has chosen the better course of giving a fair and candid view of the opposite side of the question, and of exhibiting the accordance of the ordinary view of the origin and authority of the Gospels with sound reason and advanced philosophy. He has dissembled no difficulties, and appealed to no passions. It affords me much satisfaction to find that, although my plan did not require or admit of such minute investigation, I have anticipated many of the conclusions of Neander. In many respects the point of view, from which I have looked at the subject, is altogether different; and, as I have preferred to leave my own work in its original form, though some of the difficulties and discrepancies on which Dr. Strauss dwells may, I trust, be reasonably accounted for in the following chapters of my work, this will be only incidentally; the full counter-statement, prepared with constant reference to Dr. Strauss's book, must be sought in the work of Neander.

It accords even less with the design of my work, which is rather to trace the influence and effect of Christian opinions, than rigidly to investigate their origin or to establish their truth, to notice the various particular animadversions on Dr. Strauss which might suggest themselves ; yet I have added some few observations on certain points, when they have crossed the course of my narrative.

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The best answer to Strauss is to show that a clear, consistent, and probable narrative can be formed out of that of the four Gospels, without more violence, I will venture to say, than any historian ever found necessary to harmonise four contemporary chronicles of the same events; and with a general accordance with the history, customs, habits, and opinions of the times, altogether irreconcilable with the poetic character of mythic history.

(1) The nearest approach to the mythic, would, by Si:non Magus among the Samaritans, and alperhaps be the kind of divine character assumed

luded to in the Acts,

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The inexhaustible fertility of German speculation has now displayed itself in another original and elaborate work, Die Evangelische Geschichte, Kritisch und Philosophisch bearbeitet, Von. Ch. Hermann Weisse. 2 bände. Leipsic, 1838. Dr. Weisse repudiates the theory of Strauss. If he does not bring us to the cold and dreary conclusion of Strauss, or land us on the Nova Zembla of that writer, he leaves us enveloped in a vague and indistinct mist, in which we discern nothing clear, distinct, or satisfactory.

The critical system of Weisse rests on two leading points : — The assumption of the Gospel of St. Mark as the primitive gospel, - a theory which has been advanced before, but which no writer has wrought out with so much elaborate diligence as Weisse; - and an hostility wbich leads to the virtual rejection of the Gospel of St. John as almost entirely spurious. With regard to St. Mark's Gospel he receives the tradition of Papias, that it was written from the dicta tion, or at least from information obtained from St. Peter. St Matthew's was formed from the incorporation of the Gospel of the Hebrews with the noged, a collection of speeches attributed to our Lord. As to St. John's, be submits it to the test of his own arbitrary, and it appears to me, however they may be called critical, very narrow and unphilosophical laws of probability,

The theory by which Weisse would reconcile and harmonise what he retains of the evangelic history with what he considers the highest philosophy, I must confess my inability to comprehend, and must plead as my excuse, that he admits it to be unintelligible to those who are not acquainted with some of his former philosophical works, which I have not at my command. What I do comprehend it would be impossible to explain, as the philosophical language of Germany would, if retained, be entirely without meaning to most readers, and is untranslatable into a foreign tongue.

Weisse retains a much larger and more solid substratum of historic fact than Strauss; and though he may be called a mythic interpreter, his mythic system seems to me entirely different from that of Strauss. With the latter the historic facts are, in general, pure fictions, wrought out of preconceived Jewish notions ; with Weisse they are symbolic rather than mythic. In some cases they arise from the mistake of symbolic action for real fact; as, for instance, the notion of the feeding the mullitudes in the desert arose out of the mystic language of the Saviour, relating to spiritual nourishment by the bread of life. In other parts he adopts the language of Vico, which has found so much favour in Germany, but which I confess, when gravely applied to history, and followed out to an extent, I conceive, scarcely anticipated by its author, appears to me to be one of the most monstrous improbabilities which has ever passed current under the garb of philosophy. Individual historical characters are merely syinbols of the age in which they live, – ideal personifications, as it were, of the imagination, without any actual or personal existence. Thus the elder Herod ( Weisse is speaking of the massacre of the innocents) is the symbol, the representation of worldly power. And so the tyrant of the Jews is sublirnated into an allegory.

Weisse, however, in his own sense, distinctly asserts the divinity of the religion and of our Lord himself.

I mention this book for several reasons, first, because, although it is written in a tone of bold, and, with us it would seem, presumptuous speculation, and ends, in my opinion, in a kind of unsatisfactory mysticism, it contains much profound and extremely beautiful thought.

Secondly, because in its system of interpretation it seems to me to bear a remarkable resemblance to that of Philo and the better part of the Alexandrian school, -- it is to the New Testament, what they were to the Old.

Lastly, to show that the German mind itself has been startled by the conclusions, to which the stern and remorseless logic of Strauss has pushed on the historical criticism of rationalism; and that, even where is there no tendency to


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return to the old system of religious interpretation, there is not merely strong discontent with the new, but a manifest yearning for a loftier and more consistent harmony between the religion of the Gospels and true philosophy, than bas yet been effected by any of the remarkable writers, who have attempted this reconciliation.

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The question concerning the origin of the three first Gospels, both before and subsequent to the publication of Bishop Marsh's Michaelis, has assumed every possible form; and, it may be safely asserted, that no one victorious theory has gained any thing like a general assent among the learned. Every conceivable hypothesis has found ils advocates; the priority of each of the Evangelists has been maintained with erudition and ingenuity; each has been considered the primary authority, which has been copied by the others. But the hypothesis of one or more common sources, from which all three derived their materials (the view supported with so much ingenuity and erudition by the Bishop of Peterborough), has in its turn shared the common fate.

This inexhaustible question, though less actively agitated, still continues to occupy the attention of biblical critics in Germany. I cannot belp suspecting, that the best solution of this intricate problem lies near the surface (1). The incidents of the Saviour's life and death, the contents of the Gospels, necessarily formed a considerable part of the oral teaching, or, if not of the oral teaching, of oral communication, among the first propagators of Christianity (2). These incidents would be repeated and dwelt upon with different degrees of frequency and perhaps distinctness, according to their relative importance. While, on the one hand, from the number of teachers, scattered at least through Palestine, and probably in many other parts of the Roman empire, many varieties of expression, much of that unintentional difference of colouring which every narrative receives by frequent repetition, would unavoidably arise; on tbe other, there would be a kind of sanctity attributed to the precise expressions of the apostles, if recollected, which would insure on many points a similarity, a perfect indentity, of language. We cannot suppose but that these incidents and events in the life of Christ, these parables and doctrines delivered by himself, thus orally communicated in the course of public teaching and in private, received with such zealous avidity, treasured as of such inestimable importance, would be perpetually written down, if not as yet in continuous narratives, in numerous and accumulating fragments, by the Christian community, or some

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(1) It would be difficult to point out a clearer awaken curiosity as to the historic facts, and and more satisfactory exposition of any

eontro- would not that curiosity demand, as it were, to versy, than that of this great question in biblical be satisfied ? The more belief warmed into piety, criticism, by Mr. Thirlwall in his preface to the more insatiably would it require, and the Schleiermacher's Essay on St. Luke.

more would the teacher be disposed, to gratify (2) I have considered the objections urged by this awakened interest and eagerness for inform. Hug, and inore recently with great force by ation on every point that related to the Re. Weisse, (p. 20. et seq.) to this theory, the more deemer. The formal public teaching no doubt important of which resolve themselves into the confined itself to the enforcement of the creed, undoubted fact, that it was a creed and not a and to combating Jewish or heathen objections, history, which, in all the accounts we have in the and confuting Judaism or idolatry. But in priActs of the Apostles and elsewhere, formed the vate intercourse, wben the minds of both insubject of oral teaching. This is doubtless true, structor or hearer were exclusively full of these but, resting as the creed did upou the bistory, subjects, would not the developinent of the bis. containing no doubt in its primitive form a very tory, in more or less detail, be a necessary and few simple articles, would it not necessarily unavoidable consequence ?

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one or more distinguished members of it. They would record, as far as possible, the ipsissima verba of the primitive teacher, especially if an apostle or a personal follower of Jesus. But these records would still be liable to some inac. curacy, from misapprehension or infirmity of memory; and to some discrepancy, from the inevitable variations of language in oral instruction or communication frequently repeated, and that often by different teachers. Each community or church, each intelligent Christian would thus possess a more or less imperfect Gospel, which he would preserve with jealous care, and increase with zealous activity, till it should be superseded by some more regular and complete narrative, the authenticity and authority of which he might be disposed to admit. The evangelists who, like St. Luke, might determine to write in order, either to an individual like Theophilus, to some single church, or to the whole body of Christians," those things which were most surely believed among them,” would naturally have access to, would consult, and avail themselves of many of those private or more public collections. All the three, or any two, might find many coincidences of expression, (if indeed some expressions had not already become conventional and established, or even consecrated forms of language, with regard to certain incidents,) which they would transfer into their own narrative; on the other hand, incidents would be more or less fully developed, or be entirely omitted in some, while retained in others.

Of all points on which discrepancies would be likely to arise, there would be none so variable as the chronological order and consecutive series of events. The primitive teacher, or communicator, of the history of the life and death of Jesus, would often follow a doctrinal rather than an historical connection; and this would, in many instances, be perpetuated by those who should endeavour to preserve in writing that precious information communicated to them by the preacher. Hence the discrepancies and variations in order and arrangements more especially, as it may be said without irreverence, these rude and simple historians, looking more to religious impression than to historic precision, may have undervalued the importance of rigid chronological narrative. Thus, instead of one or two primary, either received or unauthoritative, sources of the Gospels, I should conceive that there would be many, almost as many as there were Christian communities, all in themselves imperfect, but contributing more or less to the more regular and complete narratives extant in our Gospels. The general necessity, particularly as the apostles and first followers were gradually withdrawn from the scene, would demand a more full and accurate narrative; and these confessedly imperfect collections would fall into disuse, directly that the want was supplied by regular gospels, composed by persons either considered as divinely commissioned, or at least as authoritative and trustworthy writers. The almost universal acceptance of these Gospels is the guarantee for their general conformity with these oral, traditional, and written records of the different communities from which if they had greatly differed, they would probably have been rejected; while the same conformity sufficiently accounts for the greater or less fulness, the variation in the selection of incidents, the silence on some points, or the introduction of others, in one Gospel alone. Whether or not either of the evangelists saw the work of the other, they made constant use of the same or similar sources of information, not merely from the personal knowledge of the evangelists, but likewise from the general oral teaching and oral communications of the apostles and first preachers of Christianity, thus irregularly and incompletely, but honestly and faithfully, registered by the hearers. Under this view, for my own part, I seem rationally to avoid all embarrassment with the difficulties of the subject. I am not surprised at exact coincidences of thought or language, though followed by, or accompanied with, equally remarkable deviations and discrepancies. I perceive why one is brief and the other full; why one omits, while another details, ininute circumstances. I can account for much apparent and some real discre

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pancy. I think that I discern, to my own satisfaction, sufficient cause for diversity in the collocation of different incidents : in short, admitting these simple principles, there flows a natural harmony from the whole, which blends and re-unites all the apparent discord's wbich appear to disturb the minds of others.

There is one point which strikes me forcibly in all these minute and elaborate arguments, raised from every word and letter of the Gospels, which prevail throughout the whole of the modern German criticism. It is, that following out their rigid juridical examination, the most extreme rationalists are (unknowingly) influenced by the theory of the strict inspiration of the evangelists. Weisse himself has drawn very ably a distinction between juridical and historical truth, that is, the sort of legal truth which we should require in a court of justice, and that which we may expect from ordinary history. But in his own investigations he appears to me constantly to lose sight of this important dislinction ; no cross-examination in an English court of law was ever so severe as that to which every word and shade of expression in the evangelists is submitted. Now this may be just in those who admit a rigid verbal inspiration ; but those who reject it, and consider the evangelists merely as ordinary historians, have no right to require more than ordinary historic accuracy. The evangelists were, either,

I. Divinely inspired in their language and expressions as well as in the facts and doctrines which they relate. On this theory the inquirer may reasonably endeavour to harmonise discrepancies; but if he fails, he must submit in devout reverence, and suppose that there is some secret way of reconciling such contradictions, which he wants acuteness or knowledge to comprehend.

II. We may adopt a lower view of inspiration, whether of suggestion or superintendence, or even that which seems to have been generally received in the early ages, the inflexible love of truth, which being inseparable from the spirit of Christianity, would of itself be a sufficient guarantee for fidelity and honesty. Under any of these notions of inspiration (the definition of which word is, in fact, the real difficulty), there would be much latitude for variety of expression, of detail, of chronological arrangement. Each narrative (as the form and the language would be uninspired) would bear marks of the individual character, the local circumstances, the education, the position of the writer.

III. We may consider the evangelists as ordinary historians, credible merely in proportion to their means of obtaining accurate knowledge, their freedom from prejudice, and the abstract credibility of their statements. If, however, so considered (as is invariably the case in the German school of criticism), they should undoubtedly have all the privileges of ordinary historians, and indeed of historians of a singularly rude and inartificial class. They would be liable to all the mistakes into which such writers might fall; nor would trifling inaccuracies impeach the truth of their general narrative. Take, for instance, the introduction of Cyrenius, in relation to the census in the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel ; in common historical inquiry, it would be concluded that the author bad made a mistake (1) as to the name, his general truth would remain unshaken, nor would any one think of building up an hypothesis on so trivial and

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(1) Non nos debere arbitrari mentiri quem- sententiam, nihil quidem rerum, verborum tamen quain, si pluribus rem quam audierunt vel vide aliquid addat, cui auctoritas narrandi concessa runt reminiscentibus, non eodein modo atque est, sive rem bene tenens, non assequatur quamvis eisdem verbis, eadein tamen res fuerit indicata : id conetur, memoriter etiam verba quæ audivit al aut sive mutetur ordo verborum, sive alia pro integrum enuntiare. Augustin. De Consens. Eval. aliis, quæ tamen idem valeant, verba proferan- gelist, ii. 28. Compare the whole passage, which tur, sive aliquid vel quocl recordanti non occur- coincides with the general view of the fathers as rit, vel quod ex aliis que dicuntur possit intelligi to this question, in c. 50. St. Augustine seems to minus dicatur, sive aliorum quæ magis dicere admit an inspiration of guidance or superinteni. statuit narrandorum gratiâ, ut congruus tempo- ence. In one passage he seems to go farther, ris modus safficiat, aliquid sibi non totum expli- but to plunge (with respect be it spoken) into candum, sed ex parte tangendum quisque sus. inextricable nonsense, iii. 30.; sce also 48. cipiat; sive ad illuminandam declarandamque

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