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more easily influenced by legendary traditions than by the rational conclusions of impartial criticism.
The fluctuations of early Christian opinion may be forcibly illustrated through the orthodox dates of Matthew and John (about A.D. 60 and 90). If, in the brief interval of thirty years, the unassuming Son of Man had been transformed into the mysterious Logos of heathen philosophy, and the simplicity of the Sermon on the Mount into the obscure mysticism of the dialogue with Nicodemus, how may not the fluctuations of oral tradition, from the Crucifixion to the publication of Matthew, have changed the contents of that Gospel from what they would have been if written immediately after the death of Jesus ?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught a simple morality directly appealing to the natural faculties of his auditors, and a beneficent religion throwing wide open the gates of the kingdom of heaven, to all desirous of entering in absolute freedom from dogmatic tests. But in the unsatisfactory discourses of John, mystical problems supersede moral obligations; and we can imagine Nicodemus returning from his visit to Jesus, perplexed by the discouraging dogma of predestination, and the bewildering theory of a second birth, muttering as he goes—I have come in the hope of seeing a great prophet prepared to illuminate all which Moses has left in darkness; but, alas! the darkness is now even more profound. He condemns those who do not come to the light: I have come, and am scornfully dismissed without one luminous ray. He tells me I must be born again; and when I humbly ask how this strange thing can be, he reproaches
me for ignorance of mysteries unheard by me before. It is not in Moses, nor in the Prophets, nor in the traditions of Israel : how therefore could I know these strange doctrines ?' Thus Nicodemus departs. He might have been Saul of Tarsus, and, if thus disdainfully dismissed, the future Apostle would have been lost to Christianity.
Eusebius, alluding to the difference in the contents of John and the first three Gospels, accounts for the discrepancy by representing that the fourth Gospel records events in the life of Jesus antecedent to the narrative of the other Evangelists. This theory is based on the statement of John that the changing of water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee was the first miracle, and occurred whilst John was baptising in Ænon, whereas the other Evangelists begin their narrative after the Baptist had been cast into prison-a view favoured by orthodox chronology as registered in the margins of our Bibles, according to which the dialogue with Nicodemus preceded the Sermon on the Mount by twelve months. If, therefore, that eminent Pharisee had been present at the later discourse, he would have learned, with as great amazement as we ourselves, how marvellous a change had occurred in the views of the Master, after John had been cast into prison.
We again read of Jesus preaching the same mysticism to the multitude as to Nicodemus, with the result of losing many disciples.? Are we, therefore, to infer that failure warned him to make the complete change of programme indicated in the Sermon on the Mount? Whatever theory of dates may, however, be accepted by
1 Hist. Ecccl. iii, 24.
2 John vi.
Modern Orthodoxy, the dilemma still remains that Jesus either cancelled the mysticism of the fourth through the simplicity of the first Gospel, or shut up the kingdom of heaven proclaimed in Matthew, by the later revelations of Johannine theosophy. But is not the true solution of this difficulty found in the candid admission that pseudo-John is a pious fiction of the second century, composed by some unknown Gnostic so deeply imbued with the doctrinal novelties of his own generation, that he borrowed the name of an apostle to authenticate his own imaginative ideal of Jesus of Nazareth? This pious fraud may have been even conscientiously committed through faith in the miraculous reproduction of the language of Jesus by the intervention of the Paraclete -an illusion through which the author would have considered his own thoughts worthy of confirmation in the name of an apostle, as the veritable teaching of the Hebrew Messiah.
At a more advanced stage of our inquiries, we shall consider the important influence exercised by pseudoJohn in the evolution of Christianity; meanwhile, we place this work absolutely external to the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. In thus rejecting the fourth Gospel as an authentic record, we would reluctantly part with that great scene in the Messianic drama which depicts the merciful compassion of Jesus towards the woman hypocritically accused by the Scribes and Pharisees, 2 but that, if we could even sustain the authenticity of the fourth Evangelist, this interesting episode, absent from the most ancient manu
1 John xiy. 26.
2 John viii. 2-11.
scripts, is rejected as an interpolation by modern criticism.
St. Augustine sustains the apostolic origin of the narrative, and suggests that it was excluded from written Gospels, through apprehension that its teaching might be accepted by women as a licence for immorality! We must excuse so great a saint for thus libelling woman. It was customary with primitive piety to give her a name for evil second only to Satan himself; but when so great an authority suggests that evangelical records were tampered with, to prevent the compassionate consideration of Jesus towards female frailty from encouraging immorality, what becomes of the theory of an infallible New Testament; and who shall disclose the omissions and interpolations of centuries veiled in darkness, when one stroke of the pen created dogmas or blotted out revelation ?
THE SYNOPTICAL GOSPELS.
ORTHODOXY dates the first three or Synoptical Gospels A.D. 60–63, but, as we have seen, their historical existence only begins in the second century. Conflicting commentators vainly seek to determine priority of date ; but, whichever was first written, the later Evangelists obviously utilised its contents, or all compiled their Gospels from an older version, abridged or interpolated in harmony with the current traditions and legends of their locality and generation.
Internal evidence proves the interpolation of Luke. The preface promises to Theophilus a simple record of events known from the beginning to eye-witnesses, and cannot, therefore, contemplate the miraculous intercourse of Zachariah and Mary with angels, for there was no one present to confirm the wondrous tale; and if the narrative had therefore reached the hands of Theophilus in its present form, he would have been fully justified in rejecting all unattested prodigies. A fresh surprise would have, however, awaited him in a pedigree tracing the descent of Jesus from Adam to his putative father Joseph; for would it not necessarily have occurred to Theophilus to inquire, “If supposed to be the son of Joseph, what eye-witness can prove to the contrary?' It is, however, only necessary to com