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THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE
IN popular apprehension, which corresponds to the traditional chronology, there is a gulf of some four centuries and a half between the last book of the Old Testament and the first book of the New. The idea of this gulf has been wonderfully effective in perpetuating the idea that Jesus was
a high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; that is to say, without historical antecedents, a man unrelated to the development of his time and race. Now one of the most significant achievements of the Higher Criticism has been to bridge this gulf, partly with material brought forward from the Old Testament, partly with material from the Apocrypha, and partly with material from sources wholly external to the Bible and Apocrypha. The consequence is that the gulf between Malachi and Matthew has been not merely bridged, but filled in with a mass of literature which makes the passage of this period as secure as that of any period in either Testament. Moreover, the wilderness has been made to blossom like the rose; for the quality of the literature to which these centuries, formerly a blank, gave birth is not surpassed by any in the Old Testament. Its mass includes the majority of the Psalms and Proverbs, the splendid prophecy of Joel, the best part of Zechariah, the immensely interesting book of Daniel, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Solomon's Song, and Chronicles with their appendices, Ezra and Nehemiah. It also includes the whole of the Apocrypha, some books of which surely are not unworthy to be bound up with the best books of the Old Testament or New. It is only the madness of inveterate prejudice that does not * Preceded by a sermon on the Old Testament.
find the Wisdom of Solomon superior to Ecclesiastes or the first book of Maccabees superior to Esther. The Prayer of Manasses is interesting as an early form of the fictitious death-bed repentance of the famous infidel, the delightful book of Tobit as a counterblast to the book of Job. Beyond the verge of the Apocrypha, we have such books as the Apocalypse of Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon and the Sibylline Books, all, with the rest, of great importance in making clear the line of evolution from Malachi to Matthew. With such a gulf as formerly opened here, the supernatural origin of Christianity was an almost inevitable hypothesis; but, with that gulf filled in as it has been by the Higher Criticism, a rose upon its stem is not more natural than was Jesus with his gospel of compassion and his Messianic consciousness at the time when he appeared.
Coming now to the New Testament, it must be confessed that in many instances the representatives of the Higher Criticism have not dealt with it with the same sincerity and courage they have brought to the Old. "The reason, of course, is obvious," says Dr. Gore, one of the principal authors of the book called "Lux Mundi," a volume of English High Church contributions to current problems of criticism and theology,—" the reason is obvious why what can be admitted in the Old Testament could not, without results disastrous to the creed, be admitted in the New." Even a critic so free as Cheyne, in his Old Testament dealings, proposes to make the safety of the Church's creed a factor in the decision of New Testament questions.
All this is very natural. Turn the thing about, and you will find counter-illustrations of the same disposition. My dear friend, Rabbi Gottheil, is much more easily disposed to radical conclusions in the criticism of the New Testament than of the Old. But the value of evidence is not in the least affected by the magnitude of the issues at stake. The evidence that would justify a certain conclusion concerning the Old Testament will justify a similar conclusion concerning the New Testament. The Higher Criticism has only
one method, the method of science in dealing with all documents in or beyond the Bible's liberal scope. Honestly adhering to this method, we arrive, first of all in the New Testament as in the Old, at certain negative results. Here, as there, the movement forward of the various books from their traditional anchorage has been strongly marked, though not without occasional recessions. These recessions have been rejoiced over by the conservative and apologetic critics with exceeding great joy and some hilarity. Andrews Norton, in his "Genuineness of the Gospels," broke down the criticism of Eichhorn, which assigned them to the last decades of the second century; and the admiring followers of F. C. Baur have conceded that the Gospels reached their present form from twenty-five to fifty years earlier than that giant among critics confidently believed and taught.
But these movements backward of the tide leave the traditional conceptions of the character of the New Testament as effectually stranded as before, if not quite so high up the beach. As the case now stands, we have the Synoptic (the first three) Gospels assigned to the last quarter of the present century; Luke and Matthew, possibly, beyond; the Fourth Gospel to the first quarter of the second century or a somewhat later time; Acts, also to a date a good deal forward from its traditional date to 100 to 120 A.D.; the Pastoral Epistles (to Timothy and Titus), to a much and Ephesians to a somewhat later date than that of Paul's; the Epistles ascribed to Peter, to times long after his death, the first to the first quarter of the second century, and the second to the third or fourth. It is evident at a glance that these changes of New Testament dates involve many changes of authorship. Of negative conclusions the maximum of certainty as concerns the Epistles commonly ascribed to Paul is that he did not write the Epistle to the Hebrews: it is quite certain that he did not write the Epistles to Timothy and Titus and the Ephesians; also that John did not write the Apocalypse, nor Peter and John the Epistles that bear their names, nor Matthew, Mark, and Luke the first
three Gospels in their present form, nor John the Fourth Gospel in any valid sense. Closely affiliated with these negative results there are grave doubts as to the authorship of other books, the James Epistle and the Pauline* Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians.
Slight, indeed, would be the gratitude that we should owe to the Higher Criticism of the New Testament if the results already named were all it has to show. But these results, so purely or dominantly negative as I have presented them, are but the obverse of a shield which on the other side is radiant with the glow of many positive results. Wide, from first to last, has been the range of inference as to the priority of one Gospel or another. Only Luke has never (?) been assigned to the first place. John has been, and Matthew; but now it is almost or quite universally agreed among the critics of the highest rank that the priority belongs to Mark, but whether Luke or Matthew next is still in doubt. The allowances of the most conservative critics and the revised opinions of the most radical conduct us to the last quarter of the first century as the anterior limit that includes all three of the Synoptics.
But the ground of interest in the New Testament that is more attractive than any other, more fascinating and engrossing, is the Fourth Gospel. The interest attaching to this Gospel has been hardly less central to New Testament criticism than that attaching to the Pentateuch has been to the Old. After much pushing backward and forward on the smoky field, the fight seems nearly at an end, and the victory to be with those denying the authorship of John. For thirty years the tendency has been as strong this way as for twenty years before (after the Rupert charge of Baur) it was the other. The criticism of Baur, about 1845, was utterly hostile to John's authorship of the Gospel, and assigned it to a date so far advanced toward the end of the second century as 170 A.D. The reaction from this position was most strenuous, and the tide was increasingly favorable to John's authorship until Theodore Keim applied himself to the matter *That is, developed on the lines of Paul's later speculation.