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The Gospels have, of course, been attacked again and again.

Sober criticism has raised the question as to whether here and there traces may be found of the touch of a later handfor example, were there two asses or one, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem? has the baptismal formula at the end of Matthew been adjusted to the creed of Nicaea? In the following pages the attempt will be made to base what is said not on isolated texts, which mayand of course may nothave been touched, but on the general tenor of the books. A single episode or phrase may suffer change from a copyist's hand, from inadvertence or from theological predilection. The character of the Personality set forth in the Gospels is less susceptible of alteration. This point is at once of importance, for the suggestion has been made that we cannot be sure of any particular statement, episode, incident or saying in the Gospelstaken by itself. Let us for the moment imagine a more sweeping theory stillthat no single episode incident or saying of Jesus in the Gospels is authentic at all. What follows? The great historian, E. A. Freeman of Oxford, once said that a false anecdote may be good history; it may be sound evidence for character, for, to obtain currency, a false anecdote has also to true; it must be, in our proverbial phrase, "if not true, well invented." Even if exaggeration and humour contribute to give it a twist, the essence of parody is that it parodiesit must conform to the original even where it leaves it. A good story-teller will hardly tell the same story of Mr. Roosevelt and the Archbishop of Canterburyunless it happens to be true, and then he will be cautious. "Truth," to quote another proverb, "is stranger than fiction"; because fiction has to go warily to be probable, and must be, more or less, conventional. The story a man invents about another has to be true in some recognizable way to characteras a little experiment in this direction will show. The inventor of a story must have the gift of the caricaturist and of the bestower of nicknames; he must have a shrewd eye for the real features of his victim. Jesus, then, was a historical person; and about him we have a mass of stories in the Gospels, which our theory for the moment asks us to say are all false; but they have a certain unity of tone, and they agree in pointing to a character of a certain type, and the general aspects and broad outlines of that character they make abundantly clear. Even on such a hypothesis we can know something of the character of Jesus. But the hypothesis is gratuitous, and absurd, as the paragraphs that follow may help to show. The Gospels are essentially true and reliable records of a historical person. A survey of some of the outstanding features of the Gospels should do something to assure their reader of their historical value. But there is a necessary caution to be given at this moment. When Aristotle discusses happiness, he adds a curious limitation"as the man of sense would define." He postulates a certain intelligence of the matter in hand. Similarly Longinus, the greatest of ancient critics, says that in literature sure judgement is the outcome of long experience. In matters of historical and literary criticism, a certain instinct is needed, conscious or unconscious, perhaps more often the latter, which without a serious interest and a long experience no man is likely to have. The Gospels are not properly biographies; they consist of collections of reminiscences memories and fragments that have survived for years, and sometimes the fragment is little more than a phrase. Such and such were the circumstances, and Jesus spokea story that may occupy four or five verses, or less. Something happened, Jesus said or did something that impressed his friends, and they could never forget it. The story, as such impressions do, keeps its sharp edges. Date and perhaps even place may be forgotten, but the look and the tone of the speaker are indelible memories. In the experience of every man there are such moments, and the reminiscences can be trusted. The Gospels are almost avowedly not first-hand. Peter

is said to be behind Mark; Mark and at least one other are behind Matthew and Luke. Luke in his preface explains his methods. They are collectors and transmitters; and the indications are that they did their work very faithfully. There is a simplicity and a plainness about the stories in the Gospels, which further guarantees them. It is remarkable how little of the adjective there isno compliment, no eulogy, no heroic touches, no sympathetic turn of phrase, no great passages of encomium or commendation. It is often said about the Greek historian, Thucydides, that, among his many intellectual judgements, he never offers a criticism of any act that implies moral approbation or disapprobation; that he says nothing to show that he had feelings or that he cared about questions of right and wrong. Page after page of Thucydides will make the reader tingle with pity or indignation; there is hardly in literature so tragic a story as the Syracusan expeditionand the writer did not feel! Is it not the sternest and deepest feeling, after all, when a man will not "unpack his heart with words"? Something of this kind we find in the Gospels. There is not a word of condemnation for Herod or Pilate, for priest or Pharisee; not a touch of sympathy as the nails are driven through those hands; a blunt phrase about the soldiers, "And sitting down they watched him there" (Matt. 26:36) that is all. (From a literary point of view, what a triumph of awful, quiet objectivity! and they had no such aim.) Luke indeed has one slight touch that might be called irony[4]"And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will" (Luke 23:25)and yet the irony is in the story itself. "Why callest thou me good?" So it is recorded that Jesus once answered a compliment (Matt. 19:17); and it looks as if the mood had passed over to his intimates, and from them to their friends who wrote the Gospels. He meant too much for them to seek the facile relief of praise. The words of praise die away, yes, and the words of affection too; and their silence and self-restraint are in themselves evidence of their truth; and more winning than words could have been.