صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

and each Evangelist was guided in the choice of his materials by the school to which he himself belonged. The authorities of the first Evangelist were chiefly Jewish-Christian ; the third Evangelist derived his information more from Pauline circles. More than once we shall encounter narratives that cannot possibly be understood in connection with the life of Jesus, and shall transfer them to the period to which they really belong ; that is to say, to the history of the Apostles.

But enough. We have seen distinctly that even when dealing with the first three Gospels we must go to work with the utmost caution, must closely examine, minutely compare, and carefully sist their statements, if we are really to gain any genvine knowledge of Jesus and learn his true history. All this is very difficult, and there are many points about which we long to know the truth, but as to which our utmost efforts can secure no certain knowledge. When we place Matthew, Mark, and Luke side by side, we sometimes succeed in recovering the most ancient form of a narrative or saying ; sometimes we are surprised to find that the Evangelists themselves, from the very fact of their going to work so artlessly and simply, and introducing most of their alterations without exactly intending it, emend and refute themselves, and so put us upon the right track; sometimes our knowledge of the apostolic age throws a clear light upon the origin and significance of what we read in the Gospels. But in spite of all this, we have constantly to express our regretful ignorance of the true history of the life of Jesus. All the stories of the New Testament, without exception, will be dealt with and explained as we go along, and we shall try to bring ont both the beautiful and true and the one-sided or untrue ideas which they contain ; even legends? may furnish materials for history, as contributions to our knowledge of the times and the surroundings out of which they rose. But, after all, our chief concern is with Jesus. In any case, we shall hear enough of him to be filled with the deepest admiration and reverence for his character, to love him in our inmost hearts, and to feel ourselves unspeakably indebted to him. And if we discover that his first disciples generally misunderstood him, and could never fully appreciate a character to the true greatness of which they were so often blind, we shall lament the fact itself, but shall know how to make use of our knowledge of it. The truth revealed by Jesus can never be

1 See vol. i. pp. 6-8.

quite obscured. It has been, and still is, the very life of Christianity. If we listen faithfully to its commands, and open our hearts to its influence, it can and will so strengthen us in all that is good and noble that we shall bring no shame upon the name of Christian which we take from Jesus; it will so build up our character and confirm our moral power that we shall learn, rejoicing in the love of God, to be a true blessing to society, and ever to grow more and more like Jesus. No richer blessing can I wish to you, my readers !


Воок І.






EDIGREE of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of

Abraham.” Such are the words which stand at the head of the first page of the New Testament. There could not be a more natural commencement; for however wearisome a dry list of names may seem, we can easily understand that the early Christians were anxious to trace the descent of Jesus, as fully as possible, up into a hoary antiquity. Some people still keep up their family registers, and attach great value to them; and it is not unusual to set aside for the purpose the blank pages at the beginning of the great family Bible, which descends as an heirloom from father to son, and is always so carefully preserved and honored. But never, perhaps, has the passion for preserving pedigrees been so great as among the Jews after the Captivity; for they jealously defended the purity of their Israelitish descent, and deemed it of the utmost consequence to be able to furnish proof that not a drop of blood polluted by heathen affinities flowed through their veins.

But to return to the genealogy of Jesus. A careful examination brings to light several objections to its authenticity. To begin with, as soon as we read through the first chapter of Matthew we come upon an extraordinary contradiction. First of all we have three series of ancestors, of fourteen generations each — we may check the calculation for ourselves — the last of them ending Jacob, Joseph, Jesus. Well and good! But in the following verses we are all at one informed that Joseph was not the father of Jesus after all, and that Jrsus had really no connection with him. Tnen wbut is the meaning of this list of Joseph's ancestors with the heading, “ Pedigree of Jesus”? for all the while, according to this sec. ond account, it has nothing whatever to do with Jesus. You will see at once that there is a direct contradiction here. But again, in the Gospel of Luke there is another pedigree of Jesus, or rather of Joseph the father of Jesus, but it only agrees with that of Matthew in fifteen names, and departs from it in no less than forty! Continuing our examination, and inspecting the stories about the birth of Jesus which our first and third Evangelists have given us, we very soon perceive that they are in irreconcilable contradiction with each other, and that each of them taken by itself contains much that is strange and improbable, not to say impossible.

Now any one who has studied general history, especially that of antiquity, will at once remember that the origin of great men is often veiled in obscurity. If a later tradition encircles their cradle with a crown of legendary glory, it does so simply by the exercise of its own imagination ; for trustworthy sources of information for the heroes' lives do not begin to flow before their public appearance. All that precedes is mere fiction. We need not wonder, then, that the case is similar with Jesus, who has been revered throughout the ages as the greatest of all men, as the chief benefactor of our race; nay, as something more than man. And the perfect simplicity and absence of ostentation or display which always characterized Jesus makes it seem all the more natural that no record of his early life should have survived. The question is, then, are we to look upon these registers and stories as true history, or simply as at once the evidence and the result of the reverence, the faith, and the grateful love of the Christians ? The answer cannot be doubtful.

We know hardly any thing of the origin, the childhood, and the youth of Jesus. Since he is the greatest hero not only of Biblical but of universal history, and occupies the place of honor in the story of the moral and religious development of each one of us, every thing that concerns him must arouse our keenest interest, and we cannot help searching for informatiou even on these preliminary matters; but if we expect any great result we shall be bitverly disappointed. Wherever we knock, the door is closed against us. Inasmuch as Jesus begins a new

« السابقةمتابعة »