Malankara World

THE GOSPELS IN THE SECOND CENTURY

AN EXAMINATION OF THE CRITICAL PART OF A WORK ENTITLED
'SUPERNATURAL RELIGION'

By W. Sanday, M.A.


PREFACE

It will be well to explain at once that the following work has been written at the request and is published at the cost of the Christian Evidence Society, and that it may therefore be classed under the head of Apologetics. I am aware that this will be a drawback to it in the eyes of some, and I confess that it is not altogether a recommendation in my own.

Ideally speaking, Apologetics ought to have no existence distinct from the general and unanimous search for truth, and in so far as they tend to put any other consideration, no matter how high or pure in itself, in the place of truth, they must needs stand aside from the path of science.

But, on the other hand, the question of true belief itself is immensely wide. It is impossible to approach what is merely a branch of a vast subject without some general conclusions already formed as to the whole. The mind cannot, if it would, become a sheet of blank paper on which the writing is inscribed by an external process alone. It must needs have its praejudicia -- i.e. judgments formed on grounds extrinsic to the special matter of enquiry--of one sort or another. Accordingly we find that an absolutely and strictly impartial temper never has existed and never will. If it did, its verdict would still be false, because it would represent an incomplete or half-suppressed humanity. There is no question that touches, directly or indirectly, on the moral and spiritual nature of man that can be settled by the bare reason. A certain amount of sympathy is necessary in order to estimate the weight of the forces that are to be analyzed: yet that very sympathy itself becomes an extraneous influence, and the perfect balance and adjustment of the reason is disturbed.

But though impartiality, in the strict sense, is not to be had, there is another condition that may be rightly demanded--resolute honesty. This I hope may be attained as well from one point of view as from another, at least that there is no very great antecedent reason to the contrary. In past generations indeed there was such a reason. Strongly negative views could only be expressed at considerable personal risk and loss. But now, public opinion is so tolerant, especially among the reading and thinking classes, that both parties are practically upon much the same footing. Indeed for bold and strong and less sensitive minds negative views will have an attraction and will find support that will go far to neutralize any counterbalancing disadvantage.

On either side the remedy for the effects of bias must be found in a rigorous and searching criticism. If misleading statements and unsound arguments are allowed to pass unchallenged the fault will not lie only with their author.

It will be hardly necessary for me to say that the Christian Evidence Society is not responsible for the contents of this work, except in so far as may be involved in the original request that I should write it. I undertook the task at first with some hesitation, and I could not have undertaken it at all without stipulating for entire freedom. The Society very kindly and liberally granted me this, and I am conscious of having to some extent availed myself of it. I have not always stayed to consider whether the opinions expressed were in exact accordance with those of the majority of Christians. It will be enough if they should find points of contact in some minds, and the tentative element in them will perhaps be the more indulgently judged now that the reconciliation of the different branches of knowledge and belief is being so anxiously sought for.

The instrument of the enquiry had to be fashioned as the enquiry itself went on, and I suspect that the consequences of this will be apparent in some inequality and incompleteness in the earlier portions. For instance, I am afraid that the textual analysis of the quotations in Justin may seem somewhat less satisfactory than that of those in the Clementine Homilies, though Justin's quotations are the more important of the two. Still I hope that the treatment of the first may be, for the scale of the book, sufficiently adequate. There seemed to be a certain advantage in presenting the results of the enquiry in the order in which it was conducted. If time and strength are allowed me, I hope to be able to carry several of the investigations that are begun in this book some stages further.

I ought perhaps to explain that I was prevented by other engagements from beginning seriously to work upon the subject until the latter end of December in last year. The first of Dr. Lightfoot's articles in the Contemporary Review had then appeared. The next two articles (on the Silence of Eusebius and the Ignatian Epistles) were also in advance of my own treatment of the same topics. From this point onwards I was usually the first to finish, and I have been compelled merely to allude to the progress of the controversy in notes. Seeing the turn that Dr. Lightfoot's review was taking, and knowing how utterly vain it would be for any one else to go over the same ground, I felt myself more at liberty to follow a natural bent in confining myself pretty closely to the internal aspect of the enquiry. My object has been chiefly to test in detail the alleged quotations from our Gospels, while Dr. Lightfoot has taken a wider sweep in collecting and bringing to bear the collateral matter of which his unrivalled knowledge of the early Christian literature gave him such command. It will be seen that in some cases, as notably in regard to the evidence of Papias, the external and the internal methods have led to an opposite result; and I shall look forward with much interest to the further discussion of this subject.

I should be sorry to ignore the debt I am under to the author of 'Supernatural Religion' for the copious materials he has supplied to criticism. I have also to thank him for his courtesy in sending me a copy of the sixth edition of his work. My obligations to other writers I hope will be found duly acknowledged. If I were to single out the one book to which I owed most, it would probably be Credner's 'Beitrage zur Einleitung in die Biblischen Schriften,' of which I have spoken somewhat fully in an early chapter. I have used a certain amount of discretion and economy in avoiding as a rule the works of previous apologists (such as Semisch, Riggenbach, Norton, Hofstede de Groot) and consulting rather those of an opposite school in such representatives as Hilgenfeld and Volkmar. In this way, though I may very possibly have omitted some arguments which may be sound, I hope I shall have put forward few that have been already tried and found wanting.

As I have made rather large use of the argument supplied by text- criticism, I should perhaps say that to the best of my belief my attention was first drawn to its importance by a note in Dr. Lightfoot's work on Revision. The evidence adduced under this head will be found, I believe, to be independent of any particular theory of text-criticism. The idea of the Analytical Index is taken, with some change of plan, from Volkmar. It may serve to give a sort of coup d'oeil of the subject.

It is a pleasure to be able to mention another form of assistance from which it is one of the misfortunes of an anonymous writer to find himself cut off. The proofs of this book have been seen in their passage through the press by my friend the Rev. A. J. Mason, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, whose exact scholarship has been particularly valuable to me. On another side than that of scholarship I have derived the greatest benefit from the advice of my friend James Beddard, M.B., of Nottingham, who was among the first to help me to realize, and now does not suffer me to forget, what a book ought to be. The Index of References to the Gospels has also been made for me.

The chapter on Marcion has already appeared, substantially in its present form, as a contribution to the Fortnightly Review.

BARTON-ON-THE-HEATH, SHIPSTON-ON-STOUR, November, 1875.

[Greek epigraph: Ta de panta elenchoumena hupo tou photos phaneroutai pan gar to phaneroumenon phos estin.]

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