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this Gospel tells us nothing of the ascension, but has a defiant and apologetic air, as if its author knew it might be called in question.

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For all these persons and incidents of the commonly accepted biography of Jesus there is but one authority and not four, and, to put it mildly, if this one authority has read the story correctly, then the others have read it incorrectly. The ingenuous theory that John wrote later what he meant to be a supplementary Gospel, born of the wisdom of old age, will not cover the facts. The main difficulty is a much bigger one. Not only does the whole story, considered as a story, turn on the pivot of the raising of Lazarus, which the others do not relate, as if one historian of the Great War should make it originate with the incident of Sarajevo and the others should entirely omit that murder, but the figure of Jesus as seen through the eyes of John is, to an unprejudiced reader, simply not the figure of the other three. Orthodox theologians have obscured the importance of this issue for the average man. They have fought to conceal it or minimize it. They have said that it was only after a period that the full nature of Jesus was evident to Christian people, and that John wrote in the light of the later vision and not of the earlier. This is too specious to carry much conviction to the modern reader. The fact obviously remains that if Jesus, for example, turned water into wine at Cana of Galilee, there is only one witness in the world who says so, and he a witness who belongs to an age which did not regard the manufacture of such incidents as dishonest, and who had the best of subtle theological reasons for discovering this one.

The biographer of Christ who would thus approach his subject in a perfectly impartial and completely disinterested historical manner must set upon one

side the witness of John. Compare a historian who is trying to write the Life of Alfred the Great. He might relate the story of the burning of the cakes, but he would not put it in the same category as the actual fact of the crowning of Alfred as king. He would say, 'This is a pretty story which has passed into popular legend and may, perhaps, serve to illustrate the character of the man, but it would be unjust to relate it as sober history.' That is the attitude which a sober biographer must take toward the Gospel of John.


But if one support to the Story of the Cross is thus withdrawn, what of the three that would appear to remain? It was early observed that practically the whole of Mark was included in Matthew and Luke, so that very shortly the situation had to be faced that Matthew and Luke, or the authors we call by these Gospel names, had undoubtedly sat down to write with this book before them and chose rather to use it than their own recollections of the story. Two of the three witnesses thus become, at least in the main, plagiarists and elaborators of the third, rather than independent witnesses. And the difficulty does not stop there. It is now almost beyond question that the Mark which we have is only a much later edition of the Mark which they copied, and an edition, at that, which has been edited by biased men who were out to prove a case by such editing. It would be enormously valuable if the original Mark could come into our hands, but as the years go by the possibility of this becomes more remote. For example, that the original Mark did not contain the greater part of the last chapter of our present book is vastly more than a guess, and what it did contain must

probably remain forever an insoluble mystery.

The second great difficulty for the searcher after purely historical facts is that Matthew and Luke plainly did not sit down with only an original Mark before them, but that they had also another document, equally hope lessly lost to us, which scholars for convenience have agreed to call 'Q,' from the word Quelle, the Spring or Origin. It is all but generally accepted by experts that when Matthew and Luke agree, sometimes even verbally in the very face of Mark, they are quoting from this lost document which may well be the primary source of the world's knowledge of the life of Christ. And although the document is lost, its tentative reconstruction, which is possible from the others, provides us with a picture of fascinating interest.

This document would show that there was not in the original any account whatever of the birth of Christ. It begins with the coming of the Baptist, with the baptism of Jesus, and with the temptation. Its main bulk is made up of what we know as the Sermon on the Mount, and a collection of proverbs and sayings of the fowls of the air, of the lilies of the field, of the city set upon a hill, and of the easy yoke. It contains but two or three miraculous stories, and those of healings which are the most easy for us moderns to understand. Such difficult stories as of the miraculous finding of the exact tribute money in the fish's mouth and of the raising to life of the definitely dead do not appear to have belonged to it. And it concluded curiously summarily with the sayings of the coming of the Kingdom like lightning from the East unto the West, and the enigmatical utterance: 'Behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.'

The question of these Gospel witnesses has thus become a peculiarly difficult one already. Instead of the picture of some original Matthew who sat down independently of everybody else to write a biography of which he was brimful of information, we have the picture of some theologicallyminded Jew who labored before the dawn of what we understand as historical science, sitting down at a littered study table to compile from all available sources a Life which should fit in with his own preconceived prejudices and beliefs. There are a thousand straws floating on the wind to confirm such an impression as this. The original Mark wrote of Jesus on the cross that the Roman soldiers followed the usual custom of Roman execution and gave him to drink, in his agony, of wine mingled with stupefying myrrh. But the Psalmist had foretold of a suffering Messiah that he should be mocked with bitter gall, and Matthew, writing up the story, deliberately crosses out Mark's myrrh and substitutes the prophetic gall. Trifles such as these show the absence of a strict historical sense and must make us more than dubious of much longer stories.

For example, where was Jesus born? There are obvious indications that the crowd of his own day thought that he originated in Nazareth of Galilee, but the Old Testament prophet had said that out of Bethlehem in the Land of Judah should come the Governor who should be Shepherd of his people Israel. To what extent was Matthew influenced by this when he quoted the Old Testament and commented upon it: 'Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa'?

One has, of course, to add to all this a circumstance which perhaps weighs more with the layman than with the expert, but the layman has a right to remember that the cleanly printed

and neatly bound little book which he buys for a few pence at the bookseller's does not by any means give a fair impression of the condition of its original sources.

The oldest copies are represented by less than half a dozen manuscripts scattered throughout the world, hardly one of them complete and all of them dating from, roughly, some four hundred years after the time of Christ. They can be read only with extreme difficulty, and from their tattered pages the orderly story which we know can only with extreme patience be deduced. More than this, they are admittedly not in the original language. Even in the state in which we have them, they have not only passed through the hands of innumerable copyists, of whose accuracy, in a modern sense, there is no evidence, but also through the hands of translators, of whose perfect understanding of the finer shades of the language they were translating there is no evidence.

This last is a point of really great interest. Jesus is generally accepted as our instructor in imprecatory prayer, for did he not, in the Lord's Prayer, teach us to say: 'Give us this day our daily bread'? But he probably spoke in Aramaic, and the Aramaic would admit of a version of the Lord's Prayer which contains no definite request to God at all. It might have run: 'Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed is thy name. Thy kingdom is coming. Thy will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Thou givest us day by day our daily bread. Thou forgivest us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. Thou dost not lead us into temptation, but deliverest us from the Evil One. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.'

Of all these things the average man has no knowledge whatever, and he is

the victim, in point of fact, of a wellintentioned but nevertheless perfectly definite conspiracy. The original discoverers of these difficulties in Gospel translation had no desire whatever to make their knowledge popular. They had, indeed, very strong reasons for the contrary. The more they kept their knowledge confined to the study, the less virulently would the hostility of the orthodox break upon them. They too, in point of fact, were afraid of how the multitude would act if once it came to doubt the story of Jesus.

Thus there is to-day an enormous vested interest concerned with keeping doubts of the historicity of Jesus from the knowledge of men in the street. It ramifies from bishops and archbishops to popular journalists and cinema operators. We have had lately a flood of Lives of Christ, all of which see in him some new and momentarily arresting portrait. Some of them are almost bizarre in their portrayal. Thus one of the most recent finds in Jesus the prototype of the modern American business man, and maintains that an advertising convention might well accept him as the originator of the methods of modern advertisement! Moreover, the curious thing is that the case as set out is not so easily denied. One can read the book soberly and say at the end, 'Well, there is something in that!'

But the only reason why there appears to be something in it is because, as a matter of fact, there is nothing in it. The historical outline is so incredibly vague and sketchy that anything can be made of it. The more sober biographer simply cannot reconcile all the conflicting stories. He is bound to pick and choose. The result is a thousand Lives of Jesus which depict a thousand Christs of a thousand individual preferences.


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The truth of the shadowy nature of the story of Jesus, considered as a history, has also largely been obscured from us by the fact that there has been born into the world a traditional Jesus who has come almost wholly to obscure, and very largely to displace, the shadowy historical Jesus. In point of fact, the traditional portrait of Jesus was preëxistent to the historical and literary portrait of him by many years. The Gospels were not written, as many so often suppose, to convey the details of the life of Jesus to the world, but they were written to provide confirmation of and support to a less diffused and vague knowledge of him which Christians already possessed. This point is very well illustrated by the Epistles of Saint Paul. These Epistles were written many years before the Gospels, so that the great Apostle, writing to his converts of the early Gentile churches, was not writing to men who possessed a written and alleged historical biography of Christ. They had no book to which to refer, but nevertheless Paul thinks it quite unnecessary to relate even one of all the miracles Jesus performed and the parables he spoke, and mentions but one of all his disconnected utterances, as recorded in Acts, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive,' which never got into our written Gospels at all. From the Epistles alone we could gather no more of the life of Jesus than the bald statement that he was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven insufficient enough incidents for a biographer! But the biographer was considered unnecessary. Not only did Paul apparently consider that what Jesus was was more important than what Jesus did or said, but also he apparently presumed that

a sufficient biographical knowledge was already possessed by his converts.

It was when the world did not, as the early Christians imagined that it would, come to a speedy and cataclysmic end that the Gospels came to be written. They were written to prevent men from forgetting, rather than to teach them. They were not written by cool historians anxious to preserve facts so much as by ardent theologians anxious to support theories. That in a sense they were inadequately and sketchily written, from an historical point of view, is due to the fact that the theories were so widely accepted. Pauline Christianity, in other words, held the field. The traditional Christ already dominated the Christian world.

It was this traditional Christ that held undisputed sway in the minds of men before the invention of printing and the Protestant Reformation. To us who are inheritors of the tradition of that Reformation, it is difficult to realize to what extent this was so. But a mediæval Christian was just as confident that Anna was the grandmother of Jesus as he was that Mary was his mother, although Anna belongs to the traditional and not to the literary portrait of Jesus at all. He was just as confident that Veronica wiped the face of Christ on the way to the cross as he was that Pontius Pilate sent him there, but Veronica belongs to the traditional and not to the literary portrait of Jesus. And whereas these and many other illustrations may seem trivial, the main details of the life of Christ were also traditional and Pauline rather than historical and literary.

Here, indeed, we enter upon a slightly more controversial field, for fragments of the narrative can be construed into the support of this traditional picture. This is natural, because the delineators of the later literary portrait had the traditional already

forming in their minds. But thus the mediæval Christian thought that the main work of Christ on earth was the formation of an organized visible Church, of which the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, were established as rulers, over whom he had ordained Peter and his successors in Rome, and to which he had personally committed seven sacraments by which the soul of a Christian man could be redeemed from the power of the Devil and conveyed in safety to Paradise. To mediæval men Christ was primarily the Divine Champion in an age-long conflict with Satan, and was chiefly concerned with theological questions of sin and damnation and of grace and salvation.

This traditional Christ was accepted by the Church as, practically, of more authority than the literary, and, when challenged, as of equal authority with him. Thus the Council of Trent - and the Roman Catholic Church ever since deliberately states that the traditions are of equal authority with the writings of the Church, and thereby establishes an interesting and well-nigh impregnable position. It is, of course, even possible that the Church as a corporate society does remember a great deal that it was neither possible nor convenient to write down, but at any rate this hypothesis shifts the whole field of conflict. For the Catholic believes in the Church on grounds which are outside those of literary and historical study altogether. Thus, when his Church asserts that Jesus was born without human fatherhood, of an immaculate ever-virgin Mary, who had no other children and gave birth to her one child without the usual pains of motherhood, he does not believe it because of fragmentary and disputable texts which may or may not assert it in so many words. He believes it because the Church says it.


Now, while all this is common knowledge to Protestants, we remain extraordinarily blind to its results. Protestantism has increasingly thrown over much of this traditional cargo, but the fact remains that the story of Jesus which the ordinary Protestant man in the street accepts as historical is not historical at all, but traditional. It is a traditional Jesus who has overshadowed the world. It is the traditional Jesus who is carven in our churches and cathedrals, depicted in our masterpieces of painting, sung in our popular hymns, and even shown on our cinema films. It is from his dominion that the modern mind has to some extent revolted, and the fact of paramount and vital importance is this, that the modern mind, as seen in most men in the street, is unaware that in revolting from the traditional Jesus it has not of necessity revolted from the historical Jesus at all.

The portrait of this traditional Jesus is worthy of our best attention. With the reconstructed document, 'Q,' and the original Mark before us, we have seen how extraordinarily little remains of the historical Christ. Speaking historically and authoritatively, we have no more before us than this: that somewhere and at some time and in some manner unknown, but in Palestine before the beginning of our era, there was born a man, Jesus, who was thought to be of distant royal Jewish blood and whose mother was an unknown Mary. This Jesus first steps upon the stage of history as a full-grown man, apparently aroused by the preaching of an historical John the Baptist. A certain number of his sayings have come down to us, although practically none of his doings, and these sayings apparently aroused such hostility that he was crucified. Exactly what led up to this event or why they aroused such hostility

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