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Theodoret accuses Tatian of having mutilated the Gospels; but of this Theodoret had probably no better means of judging than we have. The Diatessaron has been long lost, and the name is the only clue to its composition.
Of far more im ortance than either Justin or Tatian are such writings as remain of the immediate successors of the apostles, Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius: it is asserted confidently that in these there are quotations from the Gospels so exact that they cannot be mistaken.
We will examine them one by one. In an epistle of Barnabas there is one passage-it is the only one of the kind to be found in him-agreeing word for word with the Synoptical Gospels, 'I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.' It is one of the many passages in which the Greek of the three evangelists is exactly the same; it was to be found also in Justin's 'Memorials;' and there can be no doubt that Barnabas either knew those Gospels or else the common source -if common source there was-from which the evangelists borrowed. More than this such a quotation does not enable us to say; and till some satisfactory explanation has been offered of the agreement between the evangelists the argument can advance no further. On the other hand Barnabas like St. Paul had other sources from which he drew his knowledge of our Lord's words. He too ascribes words to Him which are not recorded by the evangelists. οὕτω φῆσιν Ἰήσους οἱ θέλοντές με ἰδεῖν καὶ ἅψασθαί μου τῆς βασιλείας ὀφείλουσι θλιβέντες καὶ πάθοντες λαβεῖν με. The thought is everywhere in the Gospels, the words nowhere, nor anything like them.
Both Ignatius and Polycarp appear to quote the Gospels, yet with them also there is the same uncertainty; while Ignatius quotes as genuine an expression which so far as we know was peculiar to a translation of the Gospel of the Ebionites -Handle me and see, for I am not a spirit without body. ὅτι οὔκ εἰμι δαιμόνιον ἀσώματον.
St. Clement's quotations are still
It will be urged that because St. Clement quoted other authorities beside the evangelists, it does not follow that he did not know and quote from them. If the citation of a passage which appears in almost the same words in another book is not to be accepted as a proof of an acquaintance with that book, we make it impossible, it may be said, to prove from quotations at all the fact of any book's existence. But this is not the case; if 'a Father in relating an event which is told variously in the Synoptical Gospels had followed one of them minutely in its verbal peculiarities, it would go far to prove that he was acquainted with that one; if the same thing was observed in all his quotations the proof would amount to demonstration. If he agreed minutely in one place with one Gospel, minutely in a second with another, minutely in a third with another, there would be reason to believe that he was acquainted with them all; but when he merely relates what they also relate in language which approaches theirs and yet differs from it, as they also resemble yet differ from one another, we do not escape from the circle of uncertainty, and we conclude either that the early Fathers made quotations with a looseness irreconcileable with the idea that the language of the Gospels possessed any verbal sacredness to them, or that there were in their times other narratives of our Lord's life standing in the same relation to the three Gospels as St. Matthew stands to St. Mark and St. Luke.
Thus the problem returns upon us; and it might almost seem as if the explanation was laid purposely beyond our reach. We are driven back upon internal criticism; and we have to ask again what account is to be given of that element common to the Synoptical Gospels, common also to those other Gospels of which we find traces so distinctthose verbal resemblances, too close to be the effect of accident-those differences which forbid the supposition that the evangelists copied one another. So many are those common passages that if all which
is peculiar to each evangelist by himself were dropped, if those words and those actions only were retained which either all three or two at least share together, the figure of our Lord from His baptism to His ascension would remain with scarcely impaired majesty.
One hypothesis, and so far as we can see one only, would make the mystery intelligible, that immediately on the close of our Lord's life some original sketch of it was drawn up by the congregation, which gradually grew and gathered round it whatever his mother, his relations, or his disciples afterwards individually might contribute. This primary history would thus not be the work of any one mind or man; it would be the joint work of the Church, and thus might well be called Memorials of the Apostles ;' and would naturally be quoted without the name of either one of them being specially attached to it. As Christianity spread over the world and separate Churches were founded by particular apostles, copies would be multiplied, and copies of those copies, and unchecked by the presence (before the invention of printing impossible) of any authoritative text, changes would creep in, passages would be left out which did not suit the peculiar views of this or that sect; others would be added as this or that apostle recollected something which our Lord had said that bore on questions raised in the development of the creed. Two great divisions would form themselves between the Jewish and the Gentile Churches; there would be a Hebrew Gospel and a Greek Gospel, and the Hebrew would be translated into Greek, as Papias says St. Matthew's Gospel Eventually the confusion would become intolerable; and among the conflicting stories the Church would have been called on to make its formal choice.
This fact at least is certain from St. Luke's words, that at the time when he was writing many different narratives did actually exist. The hypothesis of a common origin for them has as yet found little favour with English theologians; yet
rather perhaps because it would be inconvenient for certain peculiar forms of English thought than because it has not probability on its side. That the Synoptical Gospels should have been a natural growth rather than the special and independent work of three separate writers, would be unfavourable to a divinity which has built itself up upon particular texts, and has been more concerned with doctrinal polemics than with the broader basements of historic truth. Yet the text theory suffers equally from the mode in which the first Fathers treated the Gospels, if it were these Gospels indeed which they used. They at least could have attributed no importance to words and phrases; while again, as we said before, a narrative dating from the cradle of Christianity, with the testimony in its favour of such broad and deep reception, would, however wanting in some details, be an evidence of the truth of the main facts of the Gospel history very much stronger than that of three books composed we know not when, and the origin of which it is impossible to trace, which it is impossible to regard as independent, and the writers of which in any other view of them must be assumed to have borrowed from each other.
But the object of this article is not to press either this or any other theory; it is but to ask from those who are able to give it an answer to the most serious of questions. The truth of the Gospel history is now more widely doubted in Europe than at any time since the conversion of Constantine. Every thinking person who has been brought up a Christian and desires to remain a Christian, yet who knows anything of what is passing in the world, is looking to be told on what evidence the New Testament claims to be received. The state of opinion proves of itself that the arguments hitherto offered produce no conviction. Every other miraculous his
VOL. LXIX. NO. CCCCIX.
tory is discredited as legend, however exalted the authority on which it seems to be rested. We crave to have good reason shown us for maintaining still the one great exception. Hard worked in other professions, and snatching with difficulty sufficient leisure to learn how complicated is the problem, the laity can but turn to those for assistance who are set apart and maintained as their theological trustees. We can but hope and pray that some one may be found to give us an edition of the Gospels in which the difficulties will neither be slurred over with convenient neglect or noticed with affected indifference. It may or may not be a road to a bishopric; it may or may not win the favour of the religious world; but it will earn at least the respectful gratitude of those who cannot trifle with holy things, and who believe that true religion is the service of truth.
The last words were scarcely written when an advertisement appeared, the importance of which can scarcely be overestimated. A commentary is announced on the Old and New Testaments, to be composed with a view to what are called the 'misrepresentations' of modern criticism. It is to be brought out under the direction of the heads of the Church, and is the nearest approach to an official act in these great matters which they have ventured for two hundred years. It is not for us to anticipate the result. The word 'misrepresentations' is unfortunate; we shou have augured better for the work if instead of it had been written the sincere perplexities of honest minds.' But the execution may be better than the promise; if these perplexities are encountered honourably and successfully, the Church may recover its supremacy over the intellect of the country; if otherwise, the archbishop who has taken the command will have steered the vessel direct upon the rocks.
THE ROYAL ACADEMY COMMISSION.
THE Report of the Commissioners
appointed to inquire into the Present Position of the Royal Academy in relation to the Fine Arts, which has been issued in the course of the current recess, is the most voluminous and in some respects the most important contribution to the literature of art which has appeared amongst us for many years; yet its importance is more on account of the subject than the manner in which it has been dealt with. The seven hundred pages devoted to the evidence and appendix are more desultory in material and arrangement than is usual even in a bluebook. The witnesses whose evidence is given at such length are not all of them persons of the highest authority, much less do they comprise all whom we should be disposed to consider as proper authorities in art subjects; and the Commissioners in examining them appear very often not to have been guided by any defined purpose strictly coming within the spirit of their instructions; the result being frequent repetitions of comparatively unimportant facts and individual opinions entitled to little weight, whilst on the other hand some of the most essential points in the history of the affair are imperfectly stated, or left altogether unmentioned. As an inevitable consequence 'the Report' in which the Commissioners sum up their views, fails of supplying the comprehensive statement on the various questions submitted to their consideration which we should have wished to have; the deficiency being compensated by certain crotchets of a speculative character, which there is too much reason to believe some of the Commissioners had adopted as a basis of operations before coming to their labours, and which, though ill supported by either evidence or opinion adduced, they still adhere to at their close. Nevertheless, with all its shortcomings and obvious absurdities, this production viewed as the probable preliminary to some attempt at legislation on the subject, is en
titled to the careful consideration of all who are interested in the practice or patronage of art, as well as of those who rightly appreciate the importance of art culture upon public grounds.
"The position of the Royal Academy in relation to the Fine Arts' has been the fruitful subject of discussion, the source of jealousies, heart-burnings, and discontents ever since that institution was founded -now nearly one hundred years ago. Indeed, its very establishment was the result of bitter feuds amongst the artists of the day; and the manner in which it was accomplished-the personal will of the Sovereign being invoked and made use of for the advancement of a favoured clique at the expense of their colleagues, was from the first a subject of discontent-discontent which has survived ever since, to the embittering of many a noble spirit, the paralyzing of many a willing hand, and the sore discouragement of art enterprise in this country, leading, as we verily believe, to the postponement of its position as a school' far behind what it would otherwise have been entitled to hold.
We have no disposition to ' open up old sores,' particularly in professional matters, being rather favourable to the quieter process of letting 'bygones be bygones;' but when prescription- royal' prescription too-is invoked in favour of a monopoly, to the disparagement of the common rights of a whole class, and when the wisdom of our ancestors' is pleaded in bar of intelligent progress in an important branch of enterprise now almost universally appreciated, we have a right and feel it a duty to go a little into the antecedents of the matter, to ascertain upon what nature and amount of authority such pretensions were based, and the consequences which in the growth and progress of events they are held to support and to justify.
Without, therefore, going through the details of the unfortunate dis