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ART. VII. – REVIEW OF CURRENT LITERATURE.
WE translate the following from a late issue of the Paris Journal des Débats. It is a close abstract of a book which must prove of great interest and worth to Biblical scholars and critics. The names of M. Réville and M. Renan carry weight on matters of pure historical research such as are treated in the work the notice of which we translate here. Whatever the latter writes is peculiarly interesting now that he is under ban of heresy, ousted from his professor's chair, and set, in some sort, as the champion, in France, of free thought in theology, and of scientific method in Scriptural criticism.
The Society of the Hague for the defence of the Christian religion proposed in 1854, and renewed in 1859, the following programme :
" It being sufficiently shown, by the most recent criticisms, that the Gospel of Matthew, in its actual form, is not identical with the Logia mentioned by Papias, the Society asks,
“ A dissertation establishing, upon credible reasons, the relations of the Gospel of Matthew with the Logia, and fixing, at the same time, the rules to be followed for distinguishing, one from another, the elements of different date contained in the Gospel of Matthew.”
The accepted essay was that of M. Albert Réville, pastor of the Walloon Church in Rotterdam. M. Réville has just published his work, - a true masterpiece of method, of clearness, of ingenious and impartial discussion.* The devoted labors, which for thirty years have had for their object the criticism of the text of the Gospels, have borne fruit. A question heretofore judged to be insoluble has come to a solution, which, to be sure, leaves room still for much uncertainty, but which is full enough for the needs of history. The way in which the three synoptic Gospels have come to their present wording is, beyond contradiction, as well known as the manner in which all the great historical biographies have been composed. One problem still defies the efforts of criticism, namely, the fourth Gospel. On this point we float still among contradictory hypotheses, although very important results may be held as gained.
The hypothesis of M. Réville upon the composition of the first Gospel is this. The final editor of this Gospel composed his book by combining, - 1st, a collection of teachings of Jesus brought together by the Apostle Matthew ; 2d, an anecdotical Gospel, written by Mark, the companion of the Apostle Peter ; 3d, a certain number of data which he drew from the evangelic tradition around him ; 4th, finally, certain data growing out of his personal reflections. The last work of editing was done in Palestine, or in one of the neighboring countries, perhaps in Batanea, whither many Christians fled at the time of the war with the Romans, where relatives of Jesus were found up to the second century, and where the first Christian impulse was preserved much * Études Critiques sur l'Évangile de St. Matthieu. Leyden. Paris, Cherbuliez.
longer than elsewhere. This work of editing took place, according to M. Réville, from the year 80 to the year 90.
The original Logia, collected by the Apostle Matthew himself, are represented to us by the great discourses of Jesus, which fill a good portion of the first Gospel. These discourses, to the number of seven, according to M. Réville, form, when taken out of the context, a complete whole, so that the original Logia which were absorbed in the last edition can be reconstructed to-day. The idea of the kingdom of God is the centre, and forms, beyond contradiction, the wonted pivot on which all the discourses of Jesus turn.
As to the collection of anecdotes from which the last editor of the first Gospel drew the greater part of his narratives, M. Réville establishes, 1st, that a bond of the strictest sort joins the historical groundwork of the first Gospel and that of the second ; 2d, that the last editor of the second Gospel had not the first as a source to draw from; 3d, that no more did the editor of the first Gospel have under his eye the second, as we read it to-day. The narratives of the first and those of the second Gospel have for their base a common document, whose primitive form is found sometimes in the one, sometimes in the other. This primitive anecdotical document did not follow the chronological order; it was brief; it must have been written about the year 75. The second Gospel, as we read it now, is but a reproduction of it, slightly modified. The plan of the life of Jesus thus rests, with the synoptics, on two original documents ; — 1st, the discourses of Jesus collected by the Apostle Matthew in the years which followed close upon the death of Jesus; 2d, the collection of anecdotes and personal accounts which Mark wrote from the recollections of Peter. It may be said that we have still these two documents, mingled with information from other sources in the first two Gospels, which rightly bear the names of the Gospel according to Matthew and the Gospel according to Mark.
In the Gospel of Luke, the narrative has reached a step further. We perceive the author who compiles, the man who has not directly seen the witnesses, but who has worked over received texts. Luke probably had under his eye the anecdotical collection of Mark and the Logia of Matthew ; but he arranges and interprets according to his own feeling. He makes the transition between the authentic Gospels and the apocryphal. The historical value of his work is, in general, rather slight.
There remains, then, the fourth Gospel, that perpetual subject of doubts and contradictions. How is it that, side by side with exact accounts which prove so well the eyewitness, there are found discourses totally different from those of Matthew ? How is it that, side by side with a general plan of the life of Jesus, which appears much more logical and much more exact than that of the synoptics, those singular passages are found, where one perceives a dogmatic interest of the editor's own, ideas wholly strange to Jesus, and at times singular indications which put us on our guard against the good faith of the parrator? How, finally, side by side with teachings the most pure,
the most just, the most refined, does that dross and slag (ces scories) appear, in which are seen the interpolations of a heated sectary? To say that we have two Jesuses, that of the synoptics and that of the fourth Gospel, as we have two Socrateses, that of Plato and that of Xenophon, is not to say enough ; for, in this case, it is Plato who is the better biographer, and, while lending his master speeches which he could not have made, knows things of capital worth in his life, which Xenophon entirely ignores. Observe, too, that it is necessary to choose between the two schemes, the two being not possibly true at the same time. A man, in fact, cannot be double, and if Jesus, as everything goes to make us believe, spoke as Matthew would have it, he could not speak as John would have it. Here is the great problem which the second half of our century will have to examine in all its bearings. The question of the synoptics, one may say, is settled. That of the fourth Gospel is yet to be resolved. It is M. Réville's duty to bring to this capital problem his exact science, and the force of his rare faculties.
ERNEST RENAN. HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY. ONE of the foremost of the living historians of Germany, it will hardly be disputed, is that very able writer and acute critic, Heinrich von Sybel, late a Professor of History at Munich, and now in the same capacity at Bonn. The pupil of Ranke, he has followed in the footsteps of his teacher, without, however, sacrificing his own individuality or denying his own liberal tendencies. He has not been a prolific writer; and is perhaps known to English readers only by a little book lately made up from some of his writings on the Crusades, — by no means a good example of his powers,
to which allusion was made in our last number. His chief work is the most exhaustive, and in many respects the most valuable, it seems to us, upon the limited period which it covers.* That period was an epoch in the history of men, embracing as it does the beginning of those great revolutions which have changed the political condition of Europe, and made possible those moral and material reforms for which our nineteenth century is to be forever memorable. It includes the overthrow of the French monarchy by the rising democracy of France, the destruction of Poland by the last two partitions to which that unhappy kingdom was subjected, and by which it was finally erased from the list of nations, and the dissolution of the German Empire in the first war with France. And those are the three great events which Sybel undertakes to narrate and explain by keeping always in view the one pervading fact, that everywhere it was the same process going on, — at Paris, at Warsaw, at Vienna, - everywhere was the feudalism of the Middle Ages decaying and breaking up.
The French Revolution has been written of to such an extent that one might suppose the subject exhausted, for the present at least, were not
* Geschichte der Revolutionszeit von 1789 bis 1795. Von HEINRICH VON SYBEL. Düsseldorf, Verlagshandlung von Julius Buddeus. 3 vols. 1855-1860. VOL. LXXIII. 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. III.
so much new material constantly coming to light, to incite the ambition and to stimulate the industry of the aspiring or conscientious student. There are Mirabeau's correspondence, for example, and the memoirs of Mallet du Pan, and the numerous histories of the departments, 10 be looked into. There are also the archives of the Tar-Office at Paris, containing the correspondence of the commanding generals with the ministry, and the secret despatches of the agents of the Convention, — all important and all as good as unused. In the Imperial archives are also the voluminous papers of the Committee of Public Safety, which, so far as Sybel knows, have never been examined except by himself, containing, for instance, among other valuable things, the proceedings touching Hebert and Danton, and the first authentic description of the catastrophe of Robespierre.
This new material, with much more, would alone serve to excuse, if it did not compel, Sybel's undertaking. Yet it is not so much to the history of the French Revolution that he devotes himself, as to the more difficult task of clearing up the darkness in which hitherto the part played by Germany in the frightful complications of those years has been involved. The timidity or the tyranny with which the archives of Germany have been shut against the investigations of scholars, have driven the German writers to seek much of their material from those of France, and hence have tended indirectly to lead them to regard the affairs of Germany at this period from a French point of view, as if the history of Europe were identical with that of the French Revolution. In the case of Poland, especially, as Sybel justly complains, the effect of this perversion of the proper point of view is most striking and pernicious, - leading his countrymen to adopt French opinions respecting the German losses to France, and Polish prejudices touching the German conquests on the Vistula. He has eagerly seized, therefore, and carefully improved, an opportunity to inspect a collection of letters and despatches exchanged during the years 1790 and 1795 between several of the most distinguished German statesmen and generals, — in particular, the correspondence, almost entire, between the Marquis of Luchesini and General von Manstein, the importance of which is indicated by an extract which he gives from a letter from the Dutch ambassador, Van Reede, at Berlin, who writes to his government under date of May 25, 1793: “The centre of all negotiations is at the head-quarters. The ministers of state are entirely ignorant of the intentions of the king. It was expected that Count Haugwitz would have the real direction of affairs here, but, to judge from appearances, nothing of the sort is the case.
On the contrary, it is asserted that Manstein alone directs the political and even civil, as well as military affairs.”
The historical method of Ranke is substantially followed by Sybel. It is not to narrate events in a dramatic, but to explain them in a political way. It is not the philosophy of history, nor is it the development of that moral or material progress which in Germany is recognized as a distinct science, under the title of the history of culture (Culturgeschichte), and which in England or with us is sometimes ventured upon
with an apology, as a possible relief to the dreary monotony of state affairs. Yet the school to which Sybel belongs, however important its function and however able its advocates, is really a one-sided school. It is devoted wholly to political causes and political effects. Those secret under-currents of thought which are silently moving a nation on to rebellious activity, that smothered sense of wrong, long accumulated, which preys upon the hearts of a people till it explodes in a whirlwind of fury, — those subtle and malign influences of superstition which swiftly deliver a nation into the hands of the shallowest of demagogues, and that profound unrest at the bottom of all human society, which never leaves it long contented at the feet of the wisest of philosophers, these things the historians of the school we speak of can neither weigh nor understand. They deal with the patent fact ; they unravel the web, intricate or criminal, or both, of the diplomacy of contending states; they probe the thoughts and applaud the virtues or scourge the vices of the rival statesmen. With marvellous accuracy they illustrate the connection of events, and explain in their furthest ramifications the consequences of a policy adopted or a principle neg. lected. Clear-headed and logical, industrious in investigation and patient in thinking, with a sharp, bold way of saying what he means, and stopping when he has said it, - anxious for the truth, yet never betrayed into any warmth except when scourging a lie, - Sybel is a striking example at once of the excellences and of the defects of the leading historians of his school. In his lectures at the University in Munich he made no attempt to conceal his liberal sentiments, even in the midst of the Ultramontane prejudice and gloom which brood there. His lectureroom was crowded with all classes of hearers, and the eagerness with which he was heard and the healthy influence which he exerted was the best testimony of his abilities and the best reward of his labors. There were no more pleasant hours to us in Europe than those we spent in listening to his clear and skilful portrayal of that great epic which was wrought and written forever in the history of men between the years 1789 and 1815. Yet, although liberal in his tendencies, there is in Sybel a strong element of conservatism. The unsparing severity with which he exposes the weakness and the littleness of many of the actors in the tragedy of the French Revolution, is akin to the scrupulous exactness with which he analyzes the moral condition of Poland, and the honesty with which he avows his conviction that its fall was owing not more to the assaults of foreign enemies than to its own internal corruption. No people, perhaps, ever exhibited greater personal bravery than the Poles, yet the statistics of Modern Europe contain no more frightful proofs of wide-spread vice and misery than existed, without effort at reform, in that enslaved nation whose unhappy fate it has been so much the fashion to lament.
Sybel writes, as he professes to write, from a German point of view, and in that respect his work is of great value. The French Revolution looked at from the other side of the Rhine assumes a different aspect from that it wears in the streets of Paris. The hopes and the fears of surrounding nations, the eagerness with which the new doc