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The Silence of the Gospels

The Silence of the Gospels

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Jul 25, 2013
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The Silence of the GospelsBY J. F. MCFADYE.IF men who belong to the talking professions sometimes take cynical views of the importance of humanspeech, a study of the Gospels will not altogetherreassure them. The silent figures of the Gospelsplay a large part in the story. The Good Samaritanutters only one sentence, and that is not good advice. 1He gives instructions for the nursing of the woundedman and arranges to pay the expenses. Thewounded traveller lying on the road, half-dead andperhaps unconscious, utters no syllable ; yet asthe passers-by approach one after the other, heclassifies them as unerringly as the botanist sorts hisspecimens. Dives speaks but Lazarus is silent.There are in the Gospels two stories of a womananointing Jesus ; 3 in each case the woman is criticised ; in each case the discussion goes on around her ;in neither case do we hear the voice of the womanherself. In the scene in which Martha criticisesher sister, Mary is silent. 4 Our Lord, too, knew whensilence was the most effective speech.5We constantly discuss the teaching of the Gospelrecords. It is hardly too much to say that what they* Luke io3ff. a Luke 16*98. 3 Luke y3?ff ; Mark 143^-4 Luke ioJ8ff. 5 e.g., Matt. 26 6 3.71Jesus and Lifeleave unsaid is as impressive and instructive as
what they say. It would have been so easy to beguilty of errors of taste or judgment ; but the Spiritof Jesus so controlled the mind of the early Churchthat the records are worthy of the Life.It seems as if the records themselves conspiredto deprive us of all material props for our faith, tocompel us, if we would worship Jesus Christ, toworship Him in spirit. We do not know for certainthe date or even the year of His birth. There is thegreat gap in His life between the infancy and thebaptism. Over this period a veil is drawn whichis lifted only once, at the scene in the Temple whenHe was twelve years old. Yet there were many whoknew Him during this period. Can we imagine thatamong the first followers no reminiscences werecurrent ? We know nothing whatever of our Lord spersonal appearance, of His voice and accent, nothingof His dress beyond what we can infer from thecustoms of the time. He spoke in Aramaic, so thateven those who read the Gospels " in the original "are reading only Greek translations of His actualwords.We are told that He was a joiner 1 ; yet we get noglimpse of Him working at His trade, nor do we knowfor certain whether His career as a tradesman endedwhen His public ministry began. We should haveloved to know something of His home life, but ourcuriosity is not satisfied. We never see Him in thehome at azareth (except in two very general versesMark 63.72The Silence of the Gospels
at the end of the second chapter of Luke), and hardlyever in the pages of the Gospels is He brought intocontact with the inmates of His old home. Afterthe childhood of Jesus Joseph drops out of the story.Of Jesus brothers from the Gospel records we knowpractically nothing but the names 1 ; of His sisterswe do not know even the names.And so it is with the men and women we meet onthe pages of the four Gospels. The kind of information a modern biographer or novelist delights togive us of the characters to whom he introducesus is almost completely lacking. Physical appearance is never described simply to gratify curiosity.If physical peculiarities are mentioned, it is only toexplain some point otherwise unintelligible ; as whenLuke tells us that Zacchaeus was a little man toexplain why he ran on in front of the crowd andclimbed a tree when he wanted to see Jesus. * As arule we are not told whether the people with whomJesus has dealings are rich or poor, educated oruneducated, good or bad, if such points are notessential to the story. Even in the apostle circle,while in some cases we know what occupation theyfollowed, in most cases even the social stratum towhich they belonged is beyond our knowledge. TheGospel writers never dream of discussing theirindividual characteristics, and we are left to inferthese somewhat precariously from the scenes in whichthey were actors. We have not even a momentaryglimpse of the wife or children of any of the apostles.Mark 63. 2 Luke 19?.73Jesus and Life

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