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a haze around facts, what would a century without a written record have done for Christianity, or what would that record itself have been without inspira tion ?” *
We need not suppose a gap of a hundred years ; we have only seen reason, in fact, to look for one of seventy years, but herein is "ample space and verge enough” for “the myth-making tendency” to work in, and even to give a few finishing “graphic touches.”
This tendency, says Dr. W. B. Carpenter, “far more general than is commonly supposed, builds up the most elaborate constructions of fiction upon the slenderest foundation of fact" (Mesmerism, Spiritualism," etc., p. 94).
We will ask Mr. Matthew Arnold to give us a few instances from Herodotus, and to remark thereon. We quote from “God and the Bible," p. 47: “Herodotus relates that when the Persian invaders came to Delphi, two local heroes buried near the place, Phylacous and Antonous, arose, and were seen, of more than mortal stature, fighting against the Persians. He relates that before the onset at Salamis, the vision of a woman appeared over an Alginetan ship, and cried in a voice which all the Grecian fleet heard, 'Good souls, how long will ye keep backing ?'”
"He relates that at Pedasus, in the neighbourhood of his own city, Halicarnassus, the priestess of Athene had a miraculous sprouting of beard whenever any grievous calamity was about to befall the people
* “Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family,” p. 293.
around ; he says, in one place, that twice this miraculous growth had happened, in another, that it had happened thrice. Herodotus writes here of times when he was himself alive, not of a fabulous antiquity. He and his countrymen were not less acute, arguing, critical people than the Jews of Palestine, but much
Herodotus himself, finally, is a man of a beautiful character and of pure, good faith,” and putting side by side with these narrations the statement of the dead saints appearing to many after the Crucifixion, the voice to Paul, etc., Mr. Arnold says, we know how the sort of story grows up.”
He says also, p. 55, “the story of the feeding of the thousands maywell have had its rise in the suspension, the comparative extinction of hunger and thirst, during hours of rapt interest and intense mental excitement. In such hours a trifling sustenance, which would commonly serve for but a few, will suffice for many.
Rumour and imagination make and add details, and swell the thing into a miracle."
And for resurrection of the dead, the Gospels themselves supply an example of groundless belief therein ; that of John the Baptist, for example, by Antipas and others.
Far from relying on popular rumour when she announces a resurrection, we may not always do so when she simply tells of a death. We may quote from Judge Hanson,* _“the story told by Foxe in
* Jesus of History,” p. 116.
his ‘Book of Martyrs,' of 'one Greenwood,' who, as a perjured person and a great persecutor, had been struck dead by the hand of God, and the use made of it by a preacher, as an illustration of divine justice in a sermon that he preached in the hearing of Greenwood himself, who, by his living presence, offered a convincing practical refutation of its truth, has been preserved for us in a legal decision.”
Our Gospels, then, with this yawning gulf of seventy or one hundred years between the events (whatever they were) and the records (such as they are), do not, it must be admitted, supply reliable testimony for the truth of even the most commonplace statement, unless otherwise supported, say by intrinsic evidence. The most conservative person would be ready to admit this in any case where religious beliefs were not involved. We met, for instance, with the following in reading Professor Aytoun's "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers.” He says in the Appendix, to justify his disbelief of Wodrow's statements respecting Grahame of Claverhouse (written thirty-six years after the events), “tradition, of course, is against me, but when I find no articulate voice uttered by tradition until after the expiry of thirty years, I am not disposed to give much weight to it as an accessory, far less to accept it as reasonable evidence.” And on the next page he remarks, “ vulgar credulity owns no limits, and the lapse of thirty years is sufficient to account for the currency of the grossest fable.” Need we point the application ?
Charles Kingsley has given us sufficient reasons why we should believe none of the monkish accounts of the miracles and visions of his Hermits, though there is as much evidence in favour of them “as there is with most men of the existence of China.” Yet he believed in those recorded in the New Testament. He shall tell us why. Because, he says, "the apostles and evangelists were sane men; men in their right minds, wise, calm, conducting themselves (save in the matter of committing sins) like other human beings. . . . The calm, the simplicity, the brevity, the true grandeur of the ... style of the apostles and evangelists . . . is sufficient evidence of their healthy-mindedness and their trustworthiness" ("The Hermits,” p. 313).
Then taking leave of the external evidence-immeasurably insufficient-we come (if we are still asking, “Where may we obtain reliable information concerning Jesus of Nazareth ?”) to the internal warrants for believing. It can only be answered, “Try the Gospels.” They ought not, it is true, to be relied on as trustworthy evidence for the marvellous, if the events of that character cannot otherwise be proved credible. Yet the internal evidence may be such as to make it almost certain what the main characteristics of Jesus' life and teaching were ; and as for single details, each will be, in its degree, probably true in proportion as it harmonizes with the whole, and as it fitly supplies any perceptible gap. If the abnormal portions of the narrative seem to be mere excrescences, they must be pared away; if, on the contrary, the natural life and teaching of Jesus cannot be separated from these elements, it will remain to be ascertained why ; we must ask whether this inseparability arises from the strength or weakness of the internal evidence. In the latter case, we may have to conclude all alike dim and uncertain ; in the former, we may be constrained to accept the supernatural, notwithstanding its lack of external support.
To the Gospels, then, let us come, and see whether their narratives are—in respect of the main features of Jesus' life and teaching-consistent with each other ; whether each Gospel is, in all important particulars, consistent with itself and with the others.
This harmony, or the want thereof, must be specially noticed in respect to the corner-stone, the great central doctrine, and, indeed, entire foundation of Christianity, viz. that Jesus was the Christ predicted by Hebrew seers. We have seen that, from the defective nature of the evidence for the "mighty works” recorded in the Gospels, they cannot be used in support of this doctrine, nor do the Gospels supply proof of the resurrection of Jesus ; which resurrection is represented in the New Testament as the sufficient proof of his Christhood. If, however, the other evidence for the resurrection to which we have alluded should prove its reality, and if from that and other considerations the Messiahship of Jesus should be held to be established, then we apprehend the otherwise incredible accounts of healing leprosy, feeding thou