Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

sands with a few viands, etc., etc., would become credible, and many of them even probable.

We shall, then, have to fix our attention especially on the claim made by Jesus to divine authority, with a view to ascertain the nature of this claim, and what it implied. On this point the third Gospel is in accord with the first and second, but being confessedly nonapostolic, it can scarcely add to their authority. We shall therefore confine ourselves almost exclusively to the first two and the fourth, in order somewhat to limit the area of research ; and, in respect to the first two, shall consider only that portion of the life of Jesus common to both, which is, in fact, only his public life, since Mark commences, not with the birth of Jesus, but with the preaching of the Baptist. And of Matthew Mr. Sanday says, “The first two chapters clearly belong to a different stock of materials from the rest of the Gospel." *

Coming, then, to the Gospels for information respecting Jesus, we intend giving, first, a brief outline of his life according to those attributed respectively to Matthew and Mark; and secondly, for comparison therewith, an outline still more brief of the life according to the fourth Gospel.

Gospels in the Second Century,” p. 153.

CHAPTER IV.

THE JESUS OF

MATTHEW" AND “MARK.”

At the time immediately preceding the public appearance of Jesus, the Jews of Palestine, and those inhabitants of its northern province of Galilee who professed the Jewish religion, together with their fellow-religionists in various parts of the Roman empire, believed themselves the peculiar people of God, in exclusive possession of his law, given in awful solemnity, detailing their duties both to himself and to each other, and also to the outer world ; and that they were the inheritors of "great and precious promises,” the fulfilment of which, though long deferred, was now to be looked for.

They believed that in ancient days God sought to rule their ancestors by messages given through prophets, declaring his will to king and people ; and that the kings reigned by right divine, as Jehovah's anointed, to execute his commands.

Of their kings they deemed David the greatest (as, indeed, he was the most celebrated), and, with two or three glaring exceptions, the one after God's own heart; and that God therefore promised, yea, even swore unto him, that his house should never fail, but that the kingdom should for ever be secured to his descendants.

The history-recorded in their sacred books-informed the Jews, as did also the writings of their prophets, that their ancestors, both kings and people, disobeyed God and disregarded his commands, and were therefore punished. That first, the greater portion of the kingdom, about four-fifths, was wrenched away from the house of David, during the reign of his grandson ; and that eventually, some centuries later, the remainder was taken, the kingdom being then utterly destroyed, and the people sold into slavery or forcibly transplanted.

But prophet after prophet, from the commencement of their calamities, reminded them that their punishment was only temporary. They declaimed against wickedness, and exhorted to repentance, and sang in lofty and impassioned, though varied strains, of the impossibility of God's forgetting his promise to David-he would “heal their backslidings, and love them freely.” He would restore them again to their own land of Israel, would give them a king of the Davidian line, who, besides the outward anointing of oil, should be spiritually anointed with righteousness, wisdom, and power. God would also, in those days, bestow his Holy Spirit on the people, that they might be cleansed from their wickedness, and enabled to obey his anointed. The prophets dilated in glowing language

on the glory and bliss of these Messianic days to come, when God should indeed reign, by his anointed, over his chosen people ; when “out of Zion should go forth the law, and the word of God from Jerusalem." But the incorrigible should be utterly destroyed.

The Jews of the time of Jesus also learned from their histories, that in the days of the later prophets many thousands of their progenitors did actually return from captivity, rebuild the temple, and re-establish the worship of the one living and true God, and that neither these nor their descendants ever afterwards disobeyed him so flagrantly as their ancestors had done. They continued in their own land, though under foreign domination; the voice of prophecy became mute, and a process of assimilation to their latest conquerors had commenced, when they were subjected to a fierce persecution, which aroused them to fight for entire freedom, and that successfully. Then again were they ruled by a prince of their own, an anointed one of God, being also high priest, but therefore not of the line of David, and therefore not the anointed one promised by the prophetic voices of the past, which were to them the voice of God. Gradually, having sought alliance with the Romans, this powerful people established mastery over Judæa, and at length its inhabitants, shortly before the public appearance of Jesus, found even the semblance of independence taken from them by their former friends, who, however, according to their custom, permitted the Jews the free exercise of their religion.

At this time it was that a general belief was entertained that the day was drawing nigh—the day so long looked for—when God should invest his anointed, his Messiah, with the sovereignty of their beloved Israel ; when the stranger should be extirpated, or, awestricken, should submit to learn humbly of the Jew, and to obey the anointed of God, and when the dispersed of Israel should be regathered to the land of their fathers.

It will, we presume, be generally admitted that something like this was, by very many, expected soon to happen in fulfilment of the prophecies of the establishment of the kingdom of God, and this at the time when the Gospel of “Mark” opens.

We propose now to give a rough outline of the substance of the first and second Gospels, dwelling chiefly on the portions connected with these expectations, premising merely that the books were certainly written by persons who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the subject of the Messianic predictions. We shall endeavour to confine ourselves to the literal sense of the text where possible, and to strictly legitimate inference therefrom.

In those days—after the lapse of several centuries -again a prophet made his appearance, in the person of John, called the Baptist. He was an ascetic, and lived in or near the Judæan wilderness, whence he came to the Jordan's banks to announce to the expectant multitudes the tidings that the heavenly kingdom, so long and so often predicted, was now about

« ÎnapoiContinuați »