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the apostolic age of her fundamental records. Bleek was a critic of the truest and best type, even by the admission of those of his countrymen who most dissented in opposite directions from many of his conclusions. Even Mr M‘Kay, the bistorian and very warm defender of the Tübingen school, admits that Bleek, who “ takes the orthodox side upon certain disputable points, is generally a fair opponent," and that his argument in particular in support of the historical credit of the fourth gospel is "perhaps the most noticeable effort of the kind."* How little Bleek felt the restraint of even the most ancient and constant traditions of the church in questions of historical criticism, when the internal evidence of the sacred documents themselve seemed to him to contradict such traditions, is manifest in the work before us, in which he decides against Matthew as the author of the first gospel (though, we think, on inadequate grounds), and assigns such a late date to the second gospel as would set aside the very ancient account of St Mark having drawn up his narrative under the eye, and with the sanction, of the Apostle Peter. Moving thus with entire freedom over the field of criticism, his conclusions of course are placed above all suspicion of undue bias, at least on the side of à conservative orthodoxy; he must be acknowledged, even by Strauss himself, to be a highly competent judge of the questions in dispute ; and his decision against both Strauss and Baur will, no doubt, be everywhere received as of great weight, and as a contribution of sterling value to the Christian argument. His own summary of it is as follows. After ranking the first gospel along with the third as an equally trustworthy and important source of the evangelical history, he remarks that “we may truly regard it as a special providence of God that for by far the most of the gospel facts peculiar to the synoptical evangelists, we have the testimony, if not of immediate apostolic authority, yet of two or even three writers, who all reach back to the apostolic age, while for those facts which are peculiar to the gospel of John we need no farther witness than that of the apostle himself.”+
"With respect to the critical views of Renan on the canonical sources of the life of Christ, as these will be found discussed at some length in another paper of this number of our journal, it would be superfluous to dwell upon them here. We only call attention to the remarkable fact, that a writer who speaks with so much respect and so much intellectual sympathy of Dr Strauss and Dr Baur, his predecessors in the same field,
ong with" of it is a value to thas of gresauss and Buss
*"The Tübingen School and its Antecedents," by R. W. Mackay, M.A. Pp. 343-4.
† “ Einleitung in das Neue Testament," p. 288.
should nevertheless have declared his total disagreement with them on the fundamental point of the age and authorship of the gospel histories. He assigns to all the three synoptics dates not later than the third quarter of the first century, and he says nothing to discredit the authorship either of Matthew, Mark, or Luke. And while he expresses himself much less favourably as to the genuineness of the fourth gospel in its present form, he at least concedes that it issued from the circle of St John's disciples at Ephesus, and that it has as high an antiquity as towards the close of the first century. What would Dr Baur have thought of his French admirer if he had survived to witness such a proof of the decline of his critical credit and authority in France? And what will the old Strauss of Germany think of the new Strauss of France, when he finds that they are at issue with each other upon these fundamental critical positions? It is announced that he is engaged upon a new version of his “ Leben Jesu.” Is he going to exchange places with Repan? Having ceased to be his master, is he going to humble himself and become his pupil, and recant all his former decisions about the age of the gospels? If not, what can he hope to gain by bringing forward again his old opinions, which have failed to retain their hold even of infidel young France? It is no doubt a mortifying humiliation to the arrogant criticism of the German illuminati, to find that even the unbelievers of other countries have as little faith in much of their criticism as the orthodox themselves; and that though agreeing with them to disbelieve in the divine authority of the New Testament, they flatly contradict them on not a few of the fundamental points on which German infidelity has been accustomed to ground its unbelief.
On the complicated and long vexed question of the origin of the three synoptical gospels, or the account which is to be given of the numerous remarkable coincidences and differences which manifest themselves upon even the slightest comparison of their several texts, Mr Westcott, Mr Roberts, and Professor Bleek have all expressed themselves very fully, but not all in the same sense. The main question which they discuss may be stated thus : Admitting that the three evangelists were not mere copyists of one another, and granting that they must all have made use of some common source of information, was this common source an oral or a written one? That common source must have been to all of them what Eichhorn called the “ Ur-evangelium," or the original gospel. But it might either take an oral or a written shape. Either it had gradually formed itself into a fixed consistency in the mouths of the apostles and other preachers of Christ, whose early sermons, to judge from the outlines given of some of them in the Acts of the Apostles, were chiefly summary accounts of the life and death and resurrection of Christ; or it had early been committed to writing in one or more documents, more or less accurate and complete; or it had obtained some degree of fixity and uniformity in both these forms together. And the question to be settled is-Did the synoptists derive their narratives from the one or the other of these sources, or from both of them together? Mr Westcott and Mr Roberts both declare themselves in favour of the oral form of the evangelic tradition as the common source of the three histories, while Professor Bleek contends that the written form, in addition to the oral, or rather much more than the oral, was the common source, and that to refer the three histories to the oral source alone, is quite insufficient to account for all the appearances which they present.
Mr Westcott has contributed a good deal of sound argument to the proof of the oral theory ; but, as Mr Roberts very justly remarks (p. 462), there is a want, in his work, “ of a thorough grappling with the difficulties of the question.” The difficulties here referred to by Mr Roberts are those which must ever encumber the subject, so long as it is assumed that the Aramaic language, and not the Greek, was that which was usually employed by the apostles in their preaching, and was also, therefore, the language in which the oral source, from which the evangelists derived their information, became gradually fixed. In making use of such a source for their gospels, the evangelists must all have translated the Aramean into Greek; and if they all translated independently, and did not borrow from one another, how is it possible to suppose that they should, in such a large number of instances, have hit by accident upon exactly the same Greek words and phrases as equivalents for the original ? This is the main difficulty with which Nr Westcott has not grappled, and the want of a satisfactory solution of which is the chief defect of his argument.
But Mr Roberts has abundantly supplied what is lacking in Mr Westcott's work in this respect. He has devoted the first and largest part of his able and important volume to the proof, chiefly from the New Testament itself, of the pregnant proposition—“That Greek was widely diffused and understood, and. commonly employed for all public purposes in Palestine during the period spent on earth by our Lord and his apostles.” The evidence which he produces in support of this thesis is very abundant, and is stated and urged with such admirable point and force, that we can scarcely imagine any candid mind remaining unconvinced by it. The results arrived at are summed up by him in the following paragraph :
“It has been proved, then, I believe, beyond the reach of all reasonable objection, and from the undeniable facts of the New
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sition from the Nebis able and pict. He has what
Testament history, that Greek, and not Hebrew, was the common language of public intercourse in Palestine in the days of Christ and his apostles. And if this has been done, we may be allowed to express some gratification at the thought that, in our existing Greek gospels, we possess, for the most part, the very words of Him to whom the illustrious testimony was borne, 'Never man spake like this man.' He spoke in Greek, and his disciples did the same while they repeated what he said. Their inspiration consisted not, as has been thought, in being enabled to give perfect translations, either of discourses delivered, or of documents written in the Hebrew language, but in being led, under infallible guidance, to transfer to paper, for the benefit of all coming ages, those words of the Great Teacher, which they had heard from his own lips in the Greek tongue, which had in that form been imprinted on their affectionate memories, and which were by them, in the same language, unerringly committed to writing, while they literally experienced a fulfilment of the gracious promise, The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.'”
It is easy to perceive what a valuable contribution Mr Roberts has made to the solution of the vexed problem of the origin of the gospels by establishing these results. If our Lord and his apostles and the evangelists all used habitually the same language, it is easy to see how, first, the apostles, in their oral accounts of our Lord's preaching, and next, the evangelists, in their written accounts, whether original or derived from "those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word,” should all have presented numerous instances of verbal agreement and identity. If the same conversations and discourses of our Lord were repeated by all alike, there could not fail to be a large amount of verbal identity, upon the simple assumption that the reporters were all alike correct and faithful. Several translators of his discourses would inevitably have differed in the Greek wording of their reports immensely more than they agreed; but where translation was uncalled for, where only faithful reporting was required, the historians might fairly be expected to agree far more than they differed.
But did all the three synoptists write their gospels in Greek ? Did not Matthew write his originally in the Aramean? and is not the Greek gospel of Matthew now in the canon a translation of his Aramean gospel, executed either by him or by some other hand? And if so, how can the verbal coincidences of Matthew with Mark and Luke be accounted for, save on the supposition that the Greek translator of Matthew copied from the other two, or that they both concurred in copying from the trans
and in ac of this view of the conce habitual
lator? These questions bring into view another important contribution which Mr Roberts has made to this discussion. He contends for the originality of the Greek gospel of Matthew, and in addition to the arguments adduced by other authors in support of this view, he is able, of course, to bring to bear upon it the whole force of the conclusions which he has previously established with regard to the habitual use of the Greek language by our Lord and his apostles. If an Aramean gospel was not absolutely needed by the Palestinensian Christians, why should Matthew have preferred to write his gospel in Aramean ?-seeing that the only effect of such a choice of language would be to limit its usefulness to much narrower bounds. Nor does he think it enough to have established the originality of the Greek gospel of Matthew; he has written a good deal to discredit the account given us by so many of the early fathers of an Aramean gospel of the same evangelist, which, without any disparagement to the Greek gospel, may have been either a translation of it, or a subsequent original from Matthew's own hand. “I cannot see,” he remarks, “why any necessity should be felt, on account of mere assertions made by the fathers, to believe that St Matthew ever wrote a gospel in Hebrew at all. No doubt there is a long catena of statements to that effect; but the strength of any chain is no more than that of the weakest part.” It was in no way necessary, however, to his main object, that he should have pushed his argument into a part of the subject so much encumbered with learned dispute, as the question of the early existence of an Aramean Matthew; and the author is well aware, of course, that he cannot expect so large an amount of concurrence with his views upon this collateral point as upon his main thesis.
There is only one other point of importance which it is necessary to notice, before passing from the works of Mr Westcott and Mr Roberts-viz., the claim which they both put forward, though with different degrees of confidence, in behalf of the theory of a common oral source of the three synoptical gospels--that it supplies an adequate solution of the problem upon which they have brought it to bear with so large a measure of success. Mr Westcott observes, at the close of his argument, that “without affecting to say that it removes every difficulty in the mutual relations of the written gospels, it explains so much with perfect simplicity and naturalness, that it would be unreasonable not to acquiesce readily in the existence of some doubts.” He also concedes something to the theory of a common written source about as much as the advocates of that theory would be willing to concede to him. “Parts of the tradition may have been committed to writing from time to time; many, as St Luke says, may have attempted