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themselves, whether or not we agree with them as to the inferences to be drawn therefrom.
That the evangelists believed what they wrote is manifestly true, but it must be apparent to any candid and intelligent reader that they did not write as men desirous of giving their personal testimony to important events witnessed by themselves, for not one of the writers affirms his own presence at any one scene; not one speaks in the first person ; not one announces himself by name as the author.
For example, of the events described in the first Gospel, those at which Matthew was not present are described as minutely as are those which may be presumed to have transpired in his presence; and conversely, there is as much vagueness when Matthew is supposed on the spot as when absent.
Again, no one, one would think, can believe, after reading the four Gospels with a mind attentive to the question of evidence, and then comparing Mark with Matthew, that these two gospels were written independently of each other, for, out of many more events than those related in detail, each writer has chosen to particularize almost precisely the same, and in very much the same order.
Bearing in mind, then, the vagueness of these writings in relation to personal testimony, the uncertainty as to the authorship, and as to the relation of the writers to the events, as regards both time and place, we must conclude that the united evidence of the four Gospels is far from sufficient to render credible such a narrative as that of the feeding of the five thousand, or that of the resurrection of Jesus, without taking into account any discrepancies that occur in the several narrations.
We need not ask whether the four biographies of Jesus which have come down to us in the New Testament agree on all points—whether the Gospels can be perfectly harmonized.
If the harmony was complete in every detail, we should still, as we have already seen, be uncertain whether those details agreed exactly with those originally presented by the writers; but it is well known, and is generally admitted, that, whatever may be the case in matters of vital importance, there are numberless small details of time, place, and circumstance in which our Gospels are at variance with each other. “I do not regard as possible,” says Dr. Farrar, “any final harmony of the Gospels” (see “Life of Christ,” p. 17 of Preface); and in a note to p. 279 of vol. i. he observes, “In the face of such obvious variationstrivial indeed, yet real—such as exist between them, in recording exact words (eg. those uttered in Gethsemane, or by the apostles in the sinking ship) and facts (e.g. the order of the temptations and the title on the cross), I do not see how their supernatural and infallible accuracy, as apart from their absolutely truthful evidence, can be maintained.”
As to the question of the resurrection, there is other evidence which we hope to consider in the proper place, viz. after the events of the life of Jesus.
It has, however, been affirmed that, irrespective of the question of authorship of the Gospels, and even of their value as testimony, if they were published as early as 60–70 (or any one of them), and if the narratives they contain were fictions, "they could not, by any imaginable possibility, escape immediate and certain detection and exposure.” This was the dictum of Dr. Ralph Wardlaw, in a work on miracles. He seems to have supposed, like Paley, that as the bards of old recited the exploits of their heroes, so the preaching of the apostles consisted of a constant recitation, not only of the teaching, but of the acts, the marvellous deeds of Jesus ; and that, if the Gospels were promulgated amongst a people familiar with all (?) the details of Jesus'actual life, anything discrepant from these would have been summarily rejected, and would never have gained belief in the Church. But on what is the notion of the apostles narrating the details of Jesus' public life founded ? Certainly it has no support in the New Testament. The specimens of the preaching of the apostles given in the Acts, the Epistles-not only those of Paul, but also those attributed to Peter, James, and John-bear no trace of such narratives. Besides, the years 60–70 are the earliest now named by “critics of eminence” for the origin of the Gospels, and the writing must have preceded the publication by some interval, we know not of what duration. But even if we take the earliest date, and suppose the contents of the Gospels at once widely circulated among those who had listened to the apostles, we have no ground for supposing that a marvellous narrative appearing therein would be rejected by any reader because he then met with it for the first time.
“At that time, everything that seemed to redound to the glory of ... however extraordinary and incredible, was eagerly welcomed, while witnesses who would have ventured to criticize or reject unsupported statements, or to detract in any way from the holy character of had no chance of being even listened to." Might it not have been thus, to some extent, after the lapse of a generation from his death, with the followers of Jesus, even as Professor Max Müller tells us it was with those of Buddha ?
“ As circulates, in some great city's crowd,
From no determined centre, nor of fact,
Or authorship exact," *
SO, in two or three decades of years after Jesus' death, might most of the Gospel narratives of wonderful events have been spread and believed here and there in the absence of the original disciples. Founded, many of them, doubtless, on facts, which should be stubborn according to their proper nature, yet somehow they often become but as the nucleoli enveloped in a substance of elastic texture and Protean disposition.
Repent (of incredulity) and believe the gospels,” cry some," or else explain how their narratives could have originated, and how they could have obtained credence.”
* Arthur Hugh Clough.
But, say we, has there never, then, in the world's history, been any example of an untrue report having been circulated in good faith by those who believed on hearsay evidence ?
Or have there, on the other hand, been millions of such cases ?
And is it not sometimes difficult, if even you live in the same town, contemporaneously with all concerned, to ascertain exactly how the thing arose ? True, difficulties of locomotion may be now easily overcome, and Palestine is not so far as Australia, for instance ; yet it were hardly worth while for any enthusiastic truth-seeker to proceed thither to compel rumour to point out her sources, when all the tongues have ceased wagging for eighteen hundred years.
If the object is simply to believe, the old method is, after all, the easiest, after the first step is once taken, viz. we have but to believe firmly (if we can) that the whole New Testament is so inspired as to be infallible in all details, and no further difficulty will be experienced.
You may then readily enough grant the tendency to evolve myths, and the great distance of time between the events and the record, since all these things, far from being against you, will beautifully serve to demonstrate only the necessity for the guarding inspiration of that record.
"Truly,” says one, “if a few weeks can throw such