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extreme of inaccuracy, they unhesitatingly pronounce many if not all their peculiarities to be mistakes. As well might a man, on receiving a letter confessedly written in cipher, commence his study of it by throwing the key to the cipher into the fire. In facts so treated there is a latent retributive power, which some day or other is bound to make itself felt. At any moment, therefore, even the most noteworthy of modern lucubrations on this subject may prove nothing better than ridiculous misconceptions.

3. Owing to their conspicuous and apparently self-evident character, " the phenomena of order," if misunderstood, must necessarily stultify the most correct reasoning from any and every class of phenomena of a more complex and less obvious character.

For instance, the only theory as to the mutual relation of the Gospels, which any number of competent investigators have arrived at independently, is that propounded by Dr. Townson, Hug, and Professor Birks successively. The two latter contend that, in the preface to his Gospel, S. Luke uses the word “Logos” in the same technical sense as in the preface to the Acts, and that in the first preface he refers to the Gospels of S. Matthew and S. Mark. Professor Birks especially claims to have proved this by processes most dear to the hearts of scientific men. But the whole theory broke down, simply because the phenomena of "order" and of “repetition " appeared flatly to contradict it. Yet I believe that it is beyond question that, when correctly tabulated, both these classes of phenomena triumphantly vindicate the correctness of the theory. They both show that it was only defective, not wrong; and that it erred in only regarding a part of S. Luke's preface, and not the whole of it, as the true key to the problem to be solved. With this additional evidence, the above writers would have easily shown that the reason of S. Luke's writing

was not the existence of many unauthorized Gospels, but the existence of anataxes, i.e. rearrangements or harmonies of those previously existing Gospels which constituted the apostolic paradoseis, but which, in the extra-Judæan Churches, had been discredited by their apparent discrepancies in the matter of order.

The problem which the phenomena of repetition in S. Luke presents is-Why, throughout a great part of his narrative, does that Evangelist almost invariably pass in silence over incidents recorded by only one other writer, and yet always record a third time those already related by two? The peculiarity in its most developed form begins at a point coincident with the beginning and ends at a point coincident with the end of the unhistorical section of S. Matthew (iv. 12-xiii. 53); i.e. the portion of the history in which a very marked and sustained difference of order between S. Matthew and S. Mark required elucidation. When an incident was only mentioned once, it was passed by simply because no necessity for elucidation arose. In the few cases in which both S. Matthew and S. Mark adopt the same merely literary method of narrating nearly cotemporary details, S. Luke repeats these details in historical order and so explains the true state of the case.

4. The phenomena of order, though necessarily consisting of ascertainable and elementary facts, are the subject of diametrically opposite opinions to an extent altogether inexplicable.

Thus Professor Birks (“Horæ Evangelicæ," p. 36), pointing out the sustained agreement which is found sometimes between two and sometimes between three Gospels, shows that, in the instances which he selects, the chances of such agreement being unintentional are, in the first case, six millions to one, and in the second, ten millions of millions to one. This he considers approaches very closely to mathematical proof of historical intention. Again, with

out going so closely into the facts, Bishop Ellicott is equally certain that this is the lesson which they teach (“ Lectures on the Life of our Lord,” p. 19).

On the other hand, Professor Westcott asserts that a non-historical intention on the part of the Evangelists is so obvious, that the attempt to prove a concordancy of order must not only be labour wasted, but must involve arguments which cannot be otherwise than hurtful to our moral sense. In place of any proof of this assertion, he maintains that the “inner harmony” which each person should discover for himself “is to be felt rather than analyzed,” and that “the subtlest signs by which it is characterized vanish in the rude process of dissection” (“Introduction,” etc., p. 355).

To whatever cause the fact may be due, the coalition in favour of the latter opinion has effectually paralyzed the tongues of all those who dissent from it. That the entirely unverifiable method of proof by which it is supported should not have commended it to scientific inquirers is, perhaps, hardly to be wondered at.

5. Like all other facts, the phenomena of order can be correctly ascertained by careful investigation.

Thus both the following processes must necessarily give the same result. We may

either ascertain


instance in which, in the matter of sequence, there is any conflict of evidence between the several writers; or we may ascertain every instance in which either of the other evangelists gives an order differing from that of S. Luke. Both methods show that, with two main exceptions, and with a few very minor exceptions in matters of nearly cotemporary detail, all the narratives are in a strictly concordant order. The two main exceptions are one section of S. Matthew (iv. 12– xiii. 53) and one section of S. Luke (xi. 14-xiii. 21).

Judging by reviews in the Guardian and the Academy,

I am afraid that I have not made it sufficiently plain that it is the fact of these two sections being exceptions to order, not the cause of their being exceptions, which is of primary importance. The supposed historical confusion in the Gospels arises from the attempt to blend the exceptions with the rule, i.e. the historical with the unhistorical in the first part of the history, and the historical with the abnormal in the latter part.

The bearing of the phenomena of order upon S. Luke's preface is important. At first sight, these phenomena confessedly present an exceedingly complicated problem. The preface both defines the origin and nature of this problem, and provides a key which is exactly adapted to all its manifold complications. The idea that all these facts could possibly be accidental, and that this accident should be coincident with a perfectly literal translation of the preface, that translation, nevertheless, being a wrong one, seems to me to be as obvious a reductio ad absurdum as it is possible to imagine.

Only if the above statements can be gainsayed can I plead guilty to having exaggerated the importance of every student of the Gospels gaining an exact knowledge of the facts bearing on their historical order. By the aid of such knowledge, I even venture to hope that we may yet obtain that one greatest desideratum of all, viz., positive proof that at least three, if not four, of the Gospels were records practically cotemporary with the events which they relate.

There is, I believe, only one serious obstacle in the way of our reaching this goal. At present, theologians are sharply divided on this subject into two opposing factions. The one rests its case entirely on the proof of the mutual dependence of the Gospels, the other on the proof of their mutual independence. Neither recognize the fact that the

evidence on both sides is equally full and equally incontestable, and that, on the hypothesis of the Gospels being what we believe them to be, the coexistence of both lines of proof must not only be designed, but may well constitute an all-important factor in their evidential value. Common sense forbids us to suppose that the truth will ever be arrived at so long as each separate investigator thus virtually limits his labours to settling with himself which half of the evidence he will accept, and which half he will do his best to explain away.



January 25, 1888.


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