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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

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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,
A rumour, changeful, vague, importunate, and loud,

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 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?”*

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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.

66

around; he says, in one place, that twice this miracu

, lous 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 more. 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 may well 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 susten

. ance, 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

ces 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.

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