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The Historical Value of the Gospels

The Historical Value of the Gospels

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Published by glennpease
BY HASTINGS RASHDALL, D.C.L., M.A.

Preached before the University of Oxford^ at St. Mary's, 1895.

" Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were
eye-witnesses and ministers of the word." — Luke i. 2.
BY HASTINGS RASHDALL, D.C.L., M.A.

Preached before the University of Oxford^ at St. Mary's, 1895.

" Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were
eye-witnesses and ministers of the word." — Luke i. 2.

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Published by: glennpease on Feb 24, 2014
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05/07/2014

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THE HISTORICAL VALUE OF THE GOSPELS BY HASTINGS RASHDALL, D.C.L., M.A.Preached before the University of Oxford^ at St. Mary's, 1895. " Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word." — Luke i. 2. I PRO POSE this afternoon to make a few sugges-tions upon the great question of the historical value of our primary sources for the life and teaching of Christ. To the trained Theologian the idea of attacking such a subject within the limits of a sermon, or even of many sermons, might, I am well aware, present itself almost in the light of an impertinence, even on the part of a preacher who possessed any qualifications for delivering an ex cathedra judgment upon it. But we are not, and we cannot all be theo-logical experts, and yet we have all got in some rough and ready way or other to face this question for ourselves if we want to attain to anything approaching intellectual clearness as to the basis of our Christian faith. For put as high as you like the place of intuition or emotion in the forma-tion of Christian belief, there must, after all, be a certain basis of documentary or traditional evidence
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for intuition or emotion to work upon. Few will, 58 THE GOSPELS 59 at the present day, go the length of professing to discern by immediate devotional instinct the inspi-ration even of single books of the Old or New Testament, in any sense of inspiration which guaran-tees historical credibility ; while for those who rely upon authority it is at least necessary to go to the pages of the New Testament to find the credentials of the authority upon which they are prepared to repose. We may perhaps look forward to the time when in their main outlines the purely critical ques-tions involved shall be settled for us by the kind of authority to which sensible men are in the habit of deferring in other departments of knowledge, when it will as little be necessary for the average educated man to examine for himself the historical character of the Christian documents as it is necessary for him personally to investigate the evidence for the rotun-dity of the earth, or to be able fully and adequately
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to refute the Baconian authorship of Shakespeare. But such a consensus, though some approximation to it is not perhaps quite so distant as the uninformed sceptic is apt to imagine, has not arrived yet. The educated man who wishes to be able to form upon this matter the same sort of rough judgment that he endeavours to form upon any other large historical or critical questions which interest him outside his own special department of study must still examine such questions for himself, at least to the extent which is necessary to enable him to appreciate the value of the authorities which may challenge his adherence. How then is such a person, without the training or 6o HISTORICAL VALUE OF the leisure to become even an amateur Theologian, to arrive at any opinion upon a question so intricate and so controverted as the origin and mutual relations of the first three Gospels ? If it were really necessary for the purpose which I have in view to adopt even a provisional Synoptic theory, the question would
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