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healing, by a word, of diseases (as leprosy, for instance) hitherto pronounced incurable.
Whatever differences of opinion may exist on other points as to the teaching of our Gospels, there is almost, if not entire unanimity in this, that at least they teach the particulars above named, and that in so doing they truly represent the original text.
Reverting now to our remarks at the beginning of this chapter as to the need of cautious inquiry before accepting as true the statements of historians, those remarks apply with greatly increased force to the extraordinary narratives of the New Testament. First, because, as we have seen, it is of great moment that we should know the truth about them, if it can be known; and secondly, because of their extraordinary, not to say miraculous, character.
We will again name two or three of the New Testament statements, which possess, in a striking degree, both characteristics, viz. of grave importance and of marvellousness, as
First, That the advent of Jesus was proclaimed centuries before his birth ; secondly, That by his Word alone he caused the multiplication of loaves and fishes to an enormous extent; and thirdly, That his dead body was, by divine power, reanimated.
As regards importance, the first and third of these are well known to be the corner-stone and chief support of the whole structure of Christian doctrine—of Christianity as a doctrinal system. And as to their extraordinary nature, without entering on the question
of miraculous or not miraculous, we affirm that they are quite contrary to-utterly at variance with—our life-long experience of nature and human nature ; so different from our daily and hourly experience of the course of events for all the years of our life, and from the experience also of all others, so far as we are acquainted with them, that we do not know whether such occurrences are even possible or not.
We cannot, therefore, accept them as true—we ought not—without rigorous scrutiny of the evidence in their favour. It is an ancient maxim that, in reference to events admittedly possible, two or three witnesses are necessary to establish a disputed fact ; but, to prove such statements as we have singled out from the New Testament, we must at leastin the first place, have the testimony of several actual witnesses of the occurrences, agreeing in all important points ; secondly, we must know these witnesses to be of unimpeachable character; and thirdly, we must be fully acquainted with the circumstances, to judge whether the witnesses could possibly have been mistaken as to what really occurred.
Have we, then, such evidence ? Have we in the New Testament-i.e. in its writers—the undoubted testimony of a sufficient number of such witnesses, under such circumstances as preclude the possibility of mistake? We shall have to see what answer can be truly made to this inquiry. And, while doing so, we are free from little questions of translation, interpolation, and so forth, for no one doubts that the three important statements we have singled out were in the original manuscripts as they are in our common Authorized Version, and in that given us by its learned revisers.
“There is satisfactory evidence,” wrote Archdeacon Paley, “that many, professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct."
This proposition applies, in all its force, to “the feeding of the five thousand," and also to the resurrection of Jesus, and were we, like Paley, satisfied with the evidence for it, it would only remain to inquire into the circumstances to decide as to the possibility of mistake, and if there were no such possibility, we should, I think, accept the statements as facts.
Let us first see whether or not we can accept the celebrated proposition of Paley without some important qualifications.
The marvellous feeding with a few loaves and fishes is asserted in the first four books of the New Testament, and the resurrection is either expressed or implied in almost every one?
We turn, then, to the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, to inquire : first, Who were the writers ? secondly, What was the character of these
writers ? and thirdly, What were their sources of information ?
First, then, who were the authors of the New Testament? Was each of its books written by him whose name it carries on its front?
On looking over the Boyle Lectures for 1863, on “The Divine Plan of Revelation," by Edward Garbett, M.A., we were somewhat surprised to find this question answered as follows. The author, stating that the evidences from miracles and prophecy were
positive proofs not even touched at any single point by the weapons of modern criticism” (see p. 6), says, “It” (modern criticism) "allows all the books of the New Testament to be the productions of the authors whose names they bear.”
Perhaps Mr. Garbett has since made similar statements in the lectures delivered for the Christian Evidence Society ; but, if ignorant of modern criticism, why did he not remember that, “ If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”? In contrast to this, we find in the "Congregational Year Book for 1874,” p. 41, that “To so destructive lengths has internal criticism proceeded, that there is a school which admits the genuineness of five only among all the books of the New Testament canon.” Thus the Rev. J. Radford Thomson, M.A., who might even have gone a step further, and have said,—there are only four books whose genuineness is not disputed by some critic of the first class.
It will be convenient for us to divide the New
Testament books into two classes, viz. those which profess to relate the details of the life and teaching of Jesus, and those which do not. To the first category belong the four biographies or Gospels, and to the second all the other books of the New Testament canon. As the latter can be more speedily dealt with, we will glance at them first.
Of these twenty-three books there are but four which are admitted genuine by the consent of all critics of the highest eminence. These four are—the Epistle to the Galatians, the two to the Corinthians, and that to the Romans (except its two last chapters), all which we may regard therefore as unquestionably written by Paul. When such a man as Baur can admit only these to be of Pauline origin, we of the uncritical class are bound to suspend judgment. For who was this Baur ? Let us ask a countryman of his, though not a follower—Dr. Christlieb, university preacher and Professor of Theology at Bonn, who will tell us,* “Of all modern opponents of our old faith the greatest is Dr. Ferdinand Christian von Baur, Professor of Theology at Tübingen (died December 2, 1860), one of the greatest, if not the greatest, theological scholar of this century; after Neander, the most notable historian of the Church, not only in Germany, but in the world; the most indefatigable of investigators, especially as regards the history of
* We quote at second hand from p. 39 of “The Wave of Scepticism and the Rock of Truth,” a little work written in opposition to that entitled “Supernatural Religion.”