The Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Rush Rhees

Part 1 out of 5

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The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

_A Study_


Rush Rhees


_Copyright, 1900,_
By Charles Scribner's Sons


C. W. McC.

In Recognition of Wise Counsel, Generous Help and Loving Appreciation

"_I would preach ... the need to the world of the faith
in a Christ, the claim that Jesus is the Christ, and the demand
for an intelligent faith, which indeed shall transcend but shall
not despise knowledge, or neglect to have a knowledge to
transcend._"--John Patterson Coyle


The aim of this book is to help thoughtful readers of the gospels to
discern more clearly the features of him whom those writings inimitably
portray. It is avowedly a study rather than a story, and as a companion to
the reading of the gospels it seeks to answer some of the questions which
are raised by a sympathetic consideration of those narratives. These
answers are offered in an unargumentative way, even where the questions
are still in debate among scholars. This method has been adopted because
technical discussion would be of interest to but few of those whom the
book hopes to serve. On some of the questions a non-committal attitude is
taken in the belief that for the understanding of the life of Jesus it is
of little importance which way the decision finally goes. Less attention
has been given to questions of geography and archaeology than to those
which have a more vital biographical significance.

A word concerning the point of view adopted. The church has inherited a
rich treasure of doctrine concerning its Lord, the result of patient study
and, frequently, of heated controversy. It is customary to approach the
gospels with this interpretation of Christ as a premise, and such a study
has some unquestionable advantages. With the apostles and evangelists,
however, the recognition of the divine nature of Jesus was a conclusion
from their acquaintance with him. The Man of Nazareth was for them
primarily a man, and they so regarded him until he showed them that he was
more. Their knowledge of him progressed in the natural way from the human
to the divine. The gospels, particularly the first three, are marvels of
simplicity and objectivity. Their authors clearly regarded Jesus as the
Man from heaven; yet in their thinking they were dominated by the
influence of a personal Lord rather than by the force of an accepted
doctrine. It is with no lack of reverence for the importance and truth of
the divinity of Christ that this book essays to bring the Man Jesus before
the mind in the reading of the gospels. The incarnation means that God
chose to reveal the divine through a human life, rather than through a
series of propositions which formulate truth (Heb. i. 1-4). The most
perennially refreshing influence for Christian life and thought is
personal discipleship to that Revealer who is able to-day as of old to
exhibit in his humanity those qualities which compel the recognition of
God manifest in the flesh.

An Appendix is added to furnish references to the wide literature of the
subject for the aid of those who wish to study it more extensively and
technically; also to discuss some questions of detail which could not be
considered in the text. This appendix will indicate the extent of my
indebtedness to others. I would acknowledge special obligation to
Professor Ernest D. Burton, of the University of Chicago, for generous
help and permission to use material found in his "Notes on the Life of
Jesus;" to Professor Shailer Mathews, also of Chicago, for very valuable
criticisms; to my colleague, Professor Charles Rufus Brown, for most
serviceable assistance; and to the editors of this series for helpful
suggestions and criticism during the making of the book. An unmeasured
debt is due to another who has sat at my side during the writing of these
pages, and has given constant inspiration, most discerning criticism, and
practical aid.

The Newton Theological Institution, April, 1900.


Part I



The Historical Situation

Sections 1-19. Pages 1-20

Section 1. The Roman estimate of Judea. 2, 3. Herod the Great and his
sons. 4. Roman procurators in Palestine. 5. Taxes. 6. The army. 7.
Administration of justice. 8. The Sadducees. 9,10. The Pharisees. 11.
The Zealots. 12. The Essenes. 13. The Devout. 14. Herodians and
Samaritans. 15. The synagogue. 16. Life under the law. 17. The
Messianic hope. 18. Contemporary literature. 19. Language of Palestine.


Sources of Our Knowledge of Jesus

Sections 20-35. Pages 21-37

Section 20. The testimony of Paul. 21. Secular history. 22. The written
gospels. 23. Characteristics of the first gospel. 24. Of the second.
25. Of the third. 26-30. The synoptic problem. 31-32. The Johannine
problem. 34. The two narrative sources. 35. Agrapha and Apocrypha.


The Harmony of the Gospels

Sections 36-44. Pages 38-14

Section 36. The value of four gospels. 37. Tatian's Diatessaron. 38.
Agreement of the gospels concerning the chief events. 39. The principal
problems. 40. Relation of Mark and John. 41, 42. Matthew and Luke. 43.
Doublets. 44. The degree of certainty attainable.


The Chronology

Sections 45-57. Pages 45-56

Sections 45-48. The length of Jesus' public ministry. 49. Date of the
first Passover. 50. Date of the crucifixion. 51-56. Date of the
nativity. 57. Summary.


The Early Years of Jesus

Sections 58-71. Pages 57-69

Section 58. Apocryphal stories. 59. Silence of the New Testament
outside the gospels. 60-62. The miraculous birth. 63. The childhood of
Jesus. 64. Home. 65. Religion, Education. 66. Growth. 67. Religious
development. 68. The view from Nazareth. 69 The first visit to
Jerusalem. 70-71. The carpenter of Nazareth.


John the Baptist

Sections 72-84. Pages 70-81

Section 72. The gospel picture. 73. Notice by Josephus. 74.
Characteristics of the prophet 75-78. John's relation to the Essenes;
the Pharisees; the Zealots; the Apocalyptists. 79. John and the
Prophets. 80-82. Origin of his baptism. 83. His greatness. 84. His
limitations and self-effacement.


The Messianic Call

Sections 85-96. Pages 82-91

Sections 85, 86. John and Jesus. 87. The baptism of Jesus. 88, 89. The
Messianic call. 90. The gift of the Spirit. 91-94. The temptation. 95.
Source of the narrative. 96. The issue.


The First Disciples

Sections 97-105. Pages 92-97

Section 97. John at Bethany beyond Jordan. 98. The deputation from the
priests. 99. John's first testimony. 100. The first disciples. 101. The
early Messianic confessions. 102. The visit to Cana. 103. The miracles
as disclosures of the character of Jesus. 104. Jesus and his mother.
105. Removal to Capernaum.

Part II

The Ministry


General Survey of the Ministry

Sections 106-112. Pages 101-105

Section 106. The early Judean ministry. 107. Withdrawal to Galilee; a
new beginning. 108. The ministry in Galilee a unit. 109. Best studied
topically. 110. The last journey to Jerusalem. 111. The last week. 112.
The resurrection and ascension.


The Early Judean Ministry

Sections 113-124. Pages 106-114

Outline of events in the Early Judean ministry. Section 113. The
opening ministry at Jerusalem. 114. The record incomplete. 115. The
cleansing of the temple. 116. Relation to synoptic account. 117. Jesus'
reply to the challenge of his authority. 118. The reserve of Jesus.
119. Discourse with Nicodemus. 120. Measure of success in Jerusalem.
121. The Baptist's last testimony. 122. The arrest of John. 123. The
second sign at Cana. 124. Summary.


The Ministry in Galilee--Its Aim and Method

Sections 125-149. Pages 115-137

Outline of events in the Galilean ministry. Section 125. General view.
126, 127. Development of popular enthusiasm. 128. Pharisaic opposition.
129, 130. Jesus and the Messianic hope. 131. Injunctions of silence.
132-135. Jesus' twofold aim in Galilee. 136, 137. Character of the
teaching of this period: the sermon on the mount. 138. The parables.
139. The instructions for the mission of the twelve. 140. Jesus' tone
of authority. 141. His mighty works. 142-144. Demoniac possession. 145.
Jesus' personal influence. 146. The feeding of the five thousand. 147,
148. Revulsion of popular feeling. 149. Results of the work in Galilee.


The Ministry in Galilee--The New Lesson

Sections 150-165. Pages 138-152

Section 150. The changed ministry. 151. The question of tradition. 152.
Further pharisaic opposition. 153. Jesus in Phoenicia. 154. Confirmation
of the disciples' faith. 155. The question at Caesarea Philippi. 156.
The corner-stone of the Church. 157-159. The new lesson. 160. The
transfiguration. 161. Cure of the epileptic boy. 162. The feast of
Tabernacles. 163. Story of Jesus and the adulteress. 164. The new note
in Jesus' teaching. 165. Summary of the Galilean ministry.


The Journey through Perea to Jerusalem

Sections 166-176. Pages 153-165

Outline of events. Section 166. The Perean ministry. 167. Account in
John. 168, 169. Account in Luke. 170. The mission of the seventy. 171.
The feast of Dedication. 172. Withdrawal beyond Jordan. 173. The
raising of Lazarus. 174. Ephraim and Jericho. 175,176. Summary.


The Final Controversies in Jerusalem

Sections 177-188. Pages 166-180

Outline of events in the last week of Jesus' life. Section 177. The
cross in apostolic preaching. 178. The anointing in Bethany. 179. The
Messianic entry. 180. The barren fig-tree. 181. The Monday of Passion
week. 182-186. The controversies of Tuesday. 187. Judas. 188.
Wednesday, the day of seclusion.


The Last Supper

Sections 189-195. Pages 181-187

Section 189. Preparations. 190,191. Date of the supper. 192. The lesson
of humility. 193. The new covenant. 194. The supper and the Passover.
195. Farewell words of admonition and comfort; the intercessory prayer.


The Shadow of Death

Sections 196-208. Pages 188-200

Sections 196, 197. Gethsemane. 198. The betrayal. 199. The trial. 200.
Peter's denials. 201. The rejection of Jesus. 202. The greatness of
Jesus. 203, 204. The crucifixion. 205. The words from the cross. 206.
The death of Jesus. 207. The burial. 208. The Sabbath rest.


The Resurrection

Sections 209-222. Pages 201-216

Section 209. The primary Christian fact. 210. The incredulity of the
disciples. 211-216. The appearances of the risen Lord. 217-220. Efforts
to explain the belief in the resurrection. 221. The ascension. 222. The
new faith of the disciples.

Part III

The Minister


The Friend of Men

Sections 223-229. Pages 219-225

Section 223. The contrast between Jesus' attitude and John's towards
common social life. 224. Contrast with the scribes. 225, 226. His
interest in simple manhood. 227. Regard for human need. 228, 229.
Sensitiveness to human sympathy.


The Teacher with Authority

Sections 230-241. Pages 226-237

Section 230. Contrast between Jesus and the scribes. 231. His appeal to
the conscience. His attitude to the Old Testament. 234. His teaching
occasional. 235. The patience of his method. 236. His use of
illustration. 237. Parable. 238. Irony and hyperbole. 239. Object
lessons. 240. Jesus' intellectual superiority. 241. His chief theme,
the kingdom of God.


Jesus' Knowledge of Truth

Sections 242-251. Pages 238-248

Sections 242, 243. Jesus' supernatural knowledge. 244. His predictions
of his death. 245. Of his resurrection. 246. His apocalyptic
predictions. 247, 248. Limitation of his knowledge. 249, 250. Jesus and
demoniac possession. 251. His certainty of his own mission.


Jesus' Conception of Himself

Sections 252-275. Pages 249-269.

Section 252. Jesus' confidence in his calling. 253. His independence in
teaching. 254. His self-assertions in response to pharisaic criticism.
255. His desire to beget faith in himself. 256,257. His extraordinary
personal claim. 258. His acceptance of Messianic titles. 259-266. The
Son of Man. 267-269. The Son of God. 270, 271. His consciousness of
oneness with God. 272. His confession of dependence; his habit of
prayer. 273. No confession of sin. 274, 275. The Word made flesh.


Index of Names and Subjects

Index of Biblical References

Map of Palestine

Part I



The Historical Situation

1. When Tacitus, the Roman historian, records the attempt of Nero to
charge the Christians with the burning of Rome, he has patience for no
more than the cursory remark that the sect originated with a Jew who had
been put to death in Judea during the reign of Tiberius. This province was
small and despised, and Tacitus could account for the influence of the
sect which sprang thence only by the fact that all that was infamous and
abominable flowed into Rome. The Roman's scornful judgment failed to grasp
the nature and power of the movement whose unpopularity invited Nero's
lying accusation, yet it emphasizes the significance of him who did "not
strive, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street," whose
influence, nevertheless, was working as leaven throughout the empire.

2. Palestine was not under immediate Roman rule when Jesus was born. Herod
the Great was drawing near the close of the long reign during which, owing
to his skill in securing Roman favor, he had tyrannized over his unwilling
people. His claim was that of an adventurer who had power to succeed, even
as his method had been that of a suspicious tyrant, who murdered right and
left, lest one of the many with better right than he should rise to
dispute with him his throne. When Herod died, his kingdom was divided
into three parts, and Rome asserted a fuller sovereignty, allowing none of
his sons to take his royal title. Herod's successors ruled with a measure
of independence, however, and followed many of their father's ways, though
none of them had his ability. The best of them was Philip, who had the
territory farthest from Jerusalem, and least related to Jewish life. He
ruled over Iturea and Trachonitis, the country to the north and east of
the Sea of Galilee, having his capital at Caesarea Philippi, a city built
and named by him on the site of an older town near the sources of the
Jordan. He also rebuilt the city of Bethsaida, at the point where the
Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee, calling it Julias, after the
daughter of Augustus. Philip enters the story of the life of Jesus only as
the ruler of these towns and the intervening region, and as husband of
Salome, the daughter of Herodias. Living far from Jerusalem and the Jewish
people, he abandoned even the show of Judaism which characterized his
father, and lived as a frank heathen in his heathen capital.

3. The other two who inherited Herod's dominion were brothers, Archelaus
and Antipas, sons of Malthace, one of Herod's many wives. Archelaus had
been designated king by Herod, with Judea, Samaria, and Idumea as his
kingdom; but the emperor allowed him only the territory, with the title
ethnarch. Antipas was named a tetrarch by Herod, and his territory was
Galilee and the land east of the Jordan to the southward of the Sea of
Galilee, called Perea. Antipas was the Herod under whose sway Jesus lived
in Galilee, and who executed John the Baptist. He was a man of passionate
temper, with the pride and love of luxury of his father. Having Jews to
govern, he held, as his father had done, to a show of Judaism, though at
heart he was as much of a pagan as Philip. He, too, loved building, and
Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee was built by him for his capital. His
unscrupulous tyranny and his gross disregard of common righteousness
appear in his relations with John the Baptist and with Herodias, his
paramour. Jesus described him well as "that fox" (Luke xiii. 32), for he
was sly, and worked often by indirection. While his father had energy and
ability which command a sort of admiration, Antipas was not only bad but

4. Both Philip and Antipas reigned until after the death of Jesus, Philip
dying in A.D. 34, and Antipas being deposed several years later, probably
in 39. Archelaus had a much shorter rule, for he was deposed in A.D. 6,
having been accused by the Jews of unbearable barbarity and tyranny,--a
charge in which Antipas and Philip joined. The territory of Archelaus was
then made an imperial province of the second grade, ruled by a procurator
appointed from among the Roman knights. In provinces under an imperial
legate (propraetor) the procurator was an officer for the administration
of the revenues; in provinces of the rank of Judea he was, however, the
representative of the emperor in all the prerogatives of government,
having command of the army, and being the final resort in legal procedure,
as well as supervising the collection of the customs and taxes. Very
little is known of the procurators appointed after the deposition of
Archelaus, until Tiberius sent Pontius Pilate in A.D. 26. He held office
until he was deposed in 36. Josephus gives several examples of his wanton
disregard of Jewish prejudice, and of his extreme cruelty. His conduct at
the trial of Jesus was remarkably gentle and judicial in comparison with
other acts recorded of his government; yet the fear of trial at Rome,
which finally induced him to give Jesus over to be crucified, was
thoroughly characteristic; in fact, his downfall resulted from a complaint
lodged against him by certain Samaritans whom he had cruelly punished for
a Messianic uprising.

5. There were two sorts of Roman taxes in Judea: direct, which were
collected by salaried officials; and customs, which were farmed out to the
highest bidder. The direct taxes consisted of a land tax and a poll tax,
in the collection of which the procurator made use of the local Jewish
courts; the customs consisted of various duties assessed on exports, and
they were gathered by representatives of men who had bought the right to
collect these dues. The chiefs as well as their underlings are called
publicans in our New Testament, although the name strictly applies only to
the chiefs. These tax-gatherers, small and great, were everywhere despised
and execrated, because, in addition to their subserviency to a hated
government, they had a reputation, usually deserved, for all sorts of
extortion. Because of this evil repute they were commonly drawn from the
unscrupulous among the people, so that the frequent coupling of publicans
and sinners in the gospels probably rested on fact as much as on

6. In Samaria and Judea soldiers were under the command of the procurator;
they took orders from the tetrarch, in Galilee and Perea. The garrison of
Jerusalem consisted of one Roman cohort--from five to six hundred
men--which was reinforced at the time of the principal feasts. These and
the other forces at the disposal of the procurator were probably recruited
from the country itself, largely from among the Samaritans. The centurion
of Capernaum (Matt. viii. 5; Luke vii. 2-5) was an officer in the army of
Antipas, who, however, doubtless organized his army on the Roman pattern,
with officers who had had their training with the imperial forces.

7. The administration of justice in Samaria and Judea was theoretically in
the hands of the procurator; practically, however, it was left with the
Jewish courts, either the local councils or the great sanhedrin at
Jerusalem. This last body consisted of seventy-one "elders." Its president
was the high-priest, and its members were drawn in large degree from the
most prominent representatives of the priestly aristocracy. The scribes,
however, had a controlling influence because of the reverence in which the
multitude held them. The sanhedrin of Jerusalem had jurisdiction only
within the province of Judea, where it tried all kinds of offences; its
judgment was final, except in capital cases, when it had to yield to the
procurator, who alone could sentence to death. It had great influence also
in Galilee, and among Jews everywhere, but this was due to the regard all
Jews had for the holy city. It was, in fact, a sort of Jewish senate,
which took cognizance of everything that seemed to affect the Jewish
interests. In Galilee and Perea, Antipas held in his hands the judicial as
well as the military and financial administration.

8. To the majority of the priests religion had become chiefly a form.
They represented the worldly party among the Jews. Since the days of the
priest-princes who ruled in Jerusalem after the return from the exile,
they had constituted the Jewish aristocracy, and held most of the wealth
of the people. It was to their interest to maintain the ritual and the
traditional customs, and they were proud of their Jewish heritage; of
genuine interest in religion, however, they had little. This secular
priestly party was called the Sadducees, probably from Zadok, the
high-priest in Solomon's time. What theology the Sadducees had was for the
most part reactionary and negative. They were opposed to the more earnest
spirit and new thought of the scribes, and naturally produced some
champions who argued for their theological position; but the mass of them
cared for other things.

9. The leaders of the popular thought, on the other hand, were chiefly
noted for their religious zeal and theological acumen. They represented
the outgrowth of that spirit which in the Maccabean time had risked all to
defend the sanctity of the temple and the right of God's people to worship
him according to his law. They were known as Pharisees, because, as the
name ("separated") indicates, they insisted on the separation of the
people of God from all the defilements and snares of the heathen life
round about them. The Pharisees constituted a fraternity devoted to the
scrupulous observance of law and tradition in all the concerns of daily
life. They were specialists in religion, and were the ideal
representatives of Judaism. Their distinguishing characteristic was
reverence for the law; their religion was the religion of a book. By
punctilious obedience of the law man might hope to gain a record of merit
which should stand to his credit and secure his reward when God should
finally judge the world. Because life furnished many situations not dealt
with in the written law, there was need of its authoritative
interpretation, in order that ignorance might not cause a man to
transgress. These interpretations constituted an oral law which
practically superseded the written code, and they were handed down from
generation to generation as "the traditions of the fathers." The existence
of this oral law made necessary a company of scribes and lawyers whose
business it was to know the traditions and transmit them to their pupils.
These scribes were the teachers of Israel, the leaders of the Pharisees,
and the most highly revered class in the community. Pharisaism at its
beginning was intensely earnest, but in the time of Jesus the earnest
spirit had died out in zealous formalism. This was the inevitable result
of their virtual substitution of the written law for the living God. Their
excessive reverence had banished God from practical relation to the daily
life. They held that he had declared his will once for all in the law. His
name was scrupulously revered, his worship was cultivated with minutest
care, his judgment was anticipated with dread; but he himself, like an
Oriental monarch, was kept far from common life in an isolation suitable
to his awful holiness. By a natural consequence conscience gave place to
scrupulous regard for tradition in the religion of the scribes. The chief
question with them was not, Is this right? but, What say the elders? The
soul's sensitiveness of response to God's will and God's truth was lost in
a maze of traditions which awoke no spontaneous Amen in the moral nature,
consequently there was frequent substitution of reputation for character.
The Pharisees could make void the command, Honor thy father, by an
ingenious application of the principle of dedication of property to God
(Mark vii. 8-13), and thus under the guise of scrupulous regard for law
discovered ways for legal disregard of law. Their theory of religion gave
abundant room for a piety which made broad its phylacteries and lengthened
its prayers, while neglecting judgment, mercy, and the love of God.

10. Yet the earnest and true development in Jewish thinking was found
among the Pharisees. The early hope of Israel was almost exclusively
national. In the later books of the Old Testament, in connection with an
enlarged sense of the importance of the individual, the doctrine of a
personal resurrection to share the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom
began to appear. It had its clear development and definite adoption as
part of the faith of Judaism, however, under the influence of the
Pharisees. Along with this increased emphasis on the worth of the
individual came a large development of the doctrine of angels and spirits.
Towards both of these doctrines the Sadducees took a reactionary position.
Politically the Pharisees were theocratic in theory, but opportunists in
practice, accommodating themselves to the existing state of things so long
as the _de facto_ government did not interfere with the religious life of
the people. They looked for a kingdom in which God should be evidently the
king of his people; but they believed that his sovereignty was to be
realized through the law, hence their sole interest was in the obedience
of God's people to that law as interpreted by the traditions.

11. The theocratic spirit was more aggressive in a party which originated
in the later years of Herod the Great, and found a reckless leader in
Judas of Galilee, who started a revolt when the governor of Syria
undertook to make a census of the Jews after the deposition of Archelaus.
This party bore the name Cananeans or Zealots. They regarded with
passionate resentment the subjection of God's people to a foreign power,
and waited eagerly for an opportune time to take the sword and set up the
kingdom of God; it was with them that the final war against Rome began.
They were found in largest numbers in Galilee, where the scholasticism of
the scribes was not so dominating an influence as in Judea. Dr. Edersheim
has called them the nationalist party. In matters belonging strictly to
the religious life they followed the Pharisees, only holding a more
material conception of the hope of Israel.

12. Another development in Jewish religious life carried separatist
doctrines to the extreme. Its representatives were called Essenes, though
what the significance of the name was is no longer clear. Although they
were allied with the Pharisees in doctrine, they show in some particulars
the influence of Hellenistic Judaism. This is suggested not only by the
attention which Philo and Josephus give to them, but also by certain of
their views, which were very like the doctrines of the Pythagoreans. They
carried the pharisaic demand for separateness to the extreme of
asceticism. While they were found in nearly every town in Palestine, some
of them even practising marriage, the largest group of them lived a
celibate, monastic life near the shores of the Dead Sea. This community
was recruited by the initiation of converts, who only after a novitiate of
three years were admitted to full membership in the order. They were
characterized by an extreme scrupulousness concerning ceremonial purity,
their meals were regarded as sacrifices, and were prepared by members of
the order, who were looked upon as priests, nor were any allowed to
partake of the food until they had first bathed themselves. Their regular
garments were all white, and were regarded as vestments for use at the
sacrificial meals,--other clothing being assumed as they went out to their
work. They were industrious agriculturists, their life was communistic,
and they were renowned for their uprightness. They revered Moses as highly
as did the scribes; yet they were opposed to animal sacrifices, and,
although they sent gifts to the temple, were apparently excluded from its
worship. Their kinship with the Pythagoreans appears in that they
addressed an invocation to the sun at its rising, and conducted all their
natural functions with scrupulous modesty, "that they might not offend the
brightness of God" (Jos. Wars, ii. 8, 9). Their rejection of bloody
sacrifices, and their view that the soul is imprisoned in the body and at
death is freed for a better life, besides many features of their life that
are genuinely Jewish, such as their regard for ceremonial purity, also
show similarity to the Pythagoreans. It has always been a matter of
perplexity that these ascetics find no mention in the New Testament. They
seem to have lived a life too much apart, and to have had little sympathy
with the ideals of Jesus, or even of John the Baptist.

13. The common people followed the lead of the Pharisees, though afar
off. They accepted the teaching concerning tradition, as well as that
concerning the resurrection, conforming their lives to the prescriptions
of the scribes more or less strictly, according as they were more or loss
ruled by religious considerations. It was in consequence of their hold on
the people that the scribes in the sanhedrin were able often to dictate a
policy to the Sadducean majority. Jesus voiced the popular opinion when he
said that "the scribes sit in Moses' seat" (Matt, xxiii. 2). Their leaders
despised "this multitude which knoweth not the law" (John vii. 49), yet
delighted to legislate for them, binding heavy burdens and grievous to be
borne. Many of the people were doubtless too intent on work and gain to be
very regardful of the _minutiae_ of conduct as ordained by the scribes;
many more were too simple-minded to follow the theories of the rabbis
concerning the aloofness of God from the life of men. These last
reverenced the scribes, followed their directions, in the main, for the
conduct of life, yet lived in fellowship with God as their fathers had,
trusting in his faithfulness, and hoping in his mercy. They are
represented in the New Testament by such as Simeon and Anna, Zachariah and
Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, and the majority of those who heard and heeded
John's call to repentance. They were Israel's remnant of pure and
undefiled religion, and constituted what there was of good soil among the
people for the reception of the seed sown by John's successor. They had no
name, for they did not constitute a party; for convenience they may be
called the Devout.

14. Two other classes among the people are mentioned in the gospels,--the
Herodians and the Samaritans. The Herodians do not appear outside the New
Testament, and seem to have been hardly more than a group of men in whom
the secular spirit was dominant, who thought it best for their interests
and for the people's to champion the claims of the Herodian family. They
were probably more akin to the Pharisees than to the Sadducees, for the
latter were hostile to the Herodian claims, from the first; yet in spirit
they seem more like to the worldly aristocracy than to the pious scribes.
The Samaritans lived in the land, a people despising and despised. Their
territory separated Galilee from Judea, and they were a constant source of
irritation to the Jews. The hatred was inherited from the days of Ezra,
when the zealous Jews refused to allow any intercourse with the
inhabitants of Samaria. These Samaritans were spurned as of impure blood
and mixed religion (II. Kings xvii. 24-41). The severe attitude adopted
towards them by Ezra and Nehemiah led to the building of a temple on Mount
Gerizim, and the establishment of a worship which sought to rival that of
Jerusalem in all particulars. Very little is known of the tenets of the
Samaritans in the time of Jesus beyond their belief that Gerizim was the
place which, according to the law, God chose for his temple, and that a
Messiah should come to settle all questions of dispute (John iv. 25).

15. Although the religious life of the Jews centred ideally in the temple,
it found its practical expression in the synagogue. This in itself is
evidence of the relative influence of priests and scribes. There was no
confessed rivalry. The Pharisee was most insistent on the sanctity of the
temple and the importance of its ritual. Yet with the growing sense of the
religious significance of the individual as distinct from the nation,
there arose of necessity a practical need for a system of worship possible
for the great majority of the people, who could at best visit Jerusalem
but once or twice a year. The synagogue seems to have been a development
of the exile, when there was no temple and no sacrifice. It was the
characteristic institution of Judaism as a religion of the law, furnishing
in every place opportunity for prayer and study. The elders of each
community seem ordinarily to have been in control of its synagogue, and to
have had authority to exclude from its fellowship persons who had come
under the ban. In addition to these officials there was a ruler of the
synagogue, who had the direction of all that concerned the worship; a
_chazzan_, or minister, who had the care of the sacred books, administered
discipline, and instructed the children in reading the scripture; and two
or more receivers of alms. The Sabbath services consisted of prayers, and
reading of the scriptures--both law and prophets,--and an address or
sermon. It was in the sermon that the people learned to know the
"traditions of the elders," whether as applications of the law to the
daily life, or as legendary embellishments of Hebrew history and prophecy.
The preacher might be any one whom the ruler of the synagague recognized
as worthy to address the congregation.

16. The religious life which centred in the synagogue found daily
expression in the observance of the law and the traditions. In the measure
of its control by the scribes it was concerned chiefly with the Sabbath,
with the various ablutions needful to the maintenance of ceremonial
purity, with the distinctions between clean and unclean food, with the
times and ways of fasting, and with the wearing of fringes and
phylacteries. These lifeless ceremonies seem to our day wearisome and
petty in the extreme. It is probable, however, that the growth of the
various traditions had been so gradual that, as has been aptly said, the
whole usage seemed no more unreasonable to the Jews than the etiquette of
polite society does to its devotees. The evil was not so much in the
minuteness of the regulations as in the external and superficial notion of
religion which they induced.

17. Optimism was the mood of Israel's prophets from the earliest times.
Every generation looked for the dawning of a day which should banish all
ill and realize the dreams inspired by the covenant in which God had
chosen Israel for his own. In proportion as the rabbinic formalism held
control of the hearts of the people, the Messianic hope lost its warmth
and vigor. Yet the scribes did not abandon the prophetic optimism; they
held to the letter of the hope, but as its fulfilment was for them
dependent on perfect obedience to the law, oral and written, their
interest was diverted to the traditions, and their strength was given to
legal disputations. Of the rest of the people, the Sadducees naturally
gave little thought to the promise of future deliverance, they were too
absorbed with regard for present concerns. Nor is there any evidence that
the Essenes, with all their reputed knowledge of the future, cherished the
hope of a Messiah. The other elements among the people who owned the
general leadership of the scribes looked eagerly for the coming time when
God should bring to pass what he had promised through the prophets. While
some expected God himself to come in judgment, and gave no thought to an
Anointed one who should represent the Most High to the people, the
majority looked for a Son of David to sit upon his father's throne. Even
so, however, there were wide differences in the nature of the hope which
was set on the coming of this Son of David. The Zealots were looking for a
victory, which should set Israel on high over all his foes. To the rest of
the people, however, the method of the consummation was not so clear, and
they were ready to leave God to work out his purpose in his own way,
longing meanwhile for the fulfilment of his promise. One class in
particular gave themselves to visionary representations of the promised
redemption. They differed from the Zealots in that they saw with unwelcome
clearness the futility of physical attack upon their enemies; but their
faith was strong, and at the moment when outward conditions seemed most
disheartening they looked for a revelation of God's power from heaven,
destroying all sinners in his wrath, and delivering and comforting his
people, giving them their lot in a veritable Canaan situated in a renewed
earth. Such visions are recorded in the Book of Daniel and the Revelation
of John. They are found in many other apocalypses not included in our
Bible, and indicate how persistently the minds of the people turned
towards the promises spoken by the prophets, and meditated on their
fulfilment. The Devout were midway between the Zealots and the
Apocalyptists. The songs of Zachariah and Mary and the thanksgiving of
Simeon express their faith. They hoped for a kingdom as tangible as the
Zealots sought, yet they preferred to _wait_ for the consolation of
Israel. They believed that God was still in his heaven, that he was not
disregardful of his people, and that in his own time he would raise up
unto them their king. They looked for a Son of David, yet his reign was to
be as remarkable for its purification of his own people as for its
victories over their foes. These victories indeed were to be largely
spiritual, for their Messiah was to conquer in the strength of the Spirit
of God and "by the word of his mouth." Such as these were ready for a
ministry like John's, and not unready for the new ideal which Jesus was
about to offer them, though their highest spiritualization of the
Messianic hope was but a shadow of the reality which Jesus asked them to

18. This last conception of the Messiah is found in a group of psalms
written in the first century before Christ, during the early days of the
Roman interference in Judea. These Psalms of Solomon, as they are called,
are pharisaic in point of view, yet they are not rabbinic in their ideas.
Their feeling is too deep, and their reliance on God too immediate; they
fitly follow the psalms of the Old Testament, though afar off. Of another
type of contemporary literature, Apocalypse, at least two representatives
besides the Book of Daniel have come down to us from the time of Jesus or
earlier,--the so-called Book of Enoch, and the fragment known as the
Assumption of Moses. These writings have peculiar interest, because they
are probably the source of quotations found in the Epistle of Jude;
moreover, some sayings of Jesus reported in the gospels, and in particular
his chosen title, The Son of Man, are strikingly similar to expressions
found in Enoch. Can Jesus have read these books? The psalms of the Devout
were the kind of literature to pass rapidly from heart to heart, until all
who sympathized with their hope and faith had heard or seen them. The case
was different with the apocalypses. They are more elaborate and
enigmatical, and may have been only slightly known. Yet, as Jesus was
familiar with the canonical Book of Daniel, although it was not read in
the synagogue service in his time, it is possible that he may also have
read or heard other books which had not won recognition as canonical. If,
however, he knew nothing of them, the similarity between the apocalypses
and some of Jesus' ideas and expressions becomes all the more significant;
for it shows that these writings gave utterance to thoughts and feelings
shared by men who never read them, which were, therefore, no isolated
fancies, but characteristic of the religion of many of the people. With
these ideas Jesus was familiar; whether he ever read the books must remain
a question.

19. This literature exists for us only in translations made in the days of
the early church. Most of these books were originally written in Hebrew,
the language of the Old Testament, or in Aramaic, the language of
Palestine in the time of Jesus. Traces of this language as spoken by Jesus
have been preserved in the gospels,--the name _Rabbi; Abba_, translated
Father; _Talitha cumi_, addressed to the daughter of Jairus; _Ephphatha_,
to the deaf man of Bethsaida; and the cry from the cross, _Eloi, Eloi,
lama sabachthani_ (John i. 38; Mark xiv. 36; v. 41; vii. 34; xv. 34). It
is altogether probable that in his common dealings with men and in his
teachings Jesus used this language. Greek was the language of the
government and of trade, and in a measure the Jews were a bilingual
people. Jesus may thus have had some knowledge of Greek, but it is
unlikely that he ever used it to any extent either in Galilee, or Judea,
or in the regions of Tyre and Sidon.


Sources of Our Knowledge Of Jesus

20. The earliest existing record of events in the life of Jesus is given
to us in the epistles of Paul. His account of the appearances of the Lord
after his death and resurrection (I. Cor. xv. 3-8) was written within
thirty years of these events. The date of the testimony, however, is much
earlier, since Paul refers to the experience which transformed his own
life, and so carries us back to within a few years of the crucifixion.
Other facts from Jesus' life may be gathered from Paul, as his descent
from Abraham and David (Rom. i. 3; ix. 5); his life of obedience (Rom. v.
19; xv. 3; Phil. ii. 5-11); his poverty (II. Cor. viii. 9); his meekness
and gentleness (II. Cor. x. 1); other New Testament writings outside of
our gospels add somewhat to this restricted but very clear testimony.

21. Secular history knows little of the obscure Galilean. The testimony of
Tacitus is that the Christians "derived their name and origin from one
Christ, who in the reign of Tiberius had suffered death by the sentence of
the procurator, Pontius Pilate" (Annals, xv. 44). Suetonius makes an
obscure and seemingly ill-informed allusion to Christ in the reason he
assigns for the edict of Claudius expelling the Jews from Rome (Vit.
Claud. 25). The younger Pliny in the second century had learned that the
numerous Christian community in Bithynia was accustomed to honor Christ
as God; but he shows no knowledge of the life of Jesus beyond what must be
inferred concerning one who caused men "to bind themselves with an oath
not to enter into any wickedness, or commit thefts, robberies, or
adulteries, or falsify their word, or repudiate trusts committed to them"
(Epistles X. 96). This secular ignorance is not surprising; but the
silence of Josephus is. He mentions Jesus in but one clearly genuine
passage, when telling of the martyrdom of James, the "brother of Jesus,
who is called the Christ" (Ant. xx. 9. 1). Of John the Baptist, however,
he has a very appreciative notice (Ant, xviii. 5. 2), and it cannot be
that he was ignorant of Jesus. His appreciation of John suggests that he
could not have mentioned Jesus more fully without some approval of his
life and teaching. This would be a condemnation of his own people, whom he
desired to commend to Gentile regard; and he seems to have taken the
cowardly course of silence concerning a matter more noteworthy, even for
that generation, than much else of which he writes very fully.

22. The reason for the lack of written Christian records of Jesus' life
from the earliest time seems to be, not that the apostles had a small
sense of the importance of his earthly ministry, but that the early
generation preferred what at a later time was called the "living voice"
(Papias in Euseb. Ch. Hist. iii. 39). The impression made by Jesus was
supremely personal; he wrote nothing, did not command his disciples to
write anything, preferring to influence men's minds by personal power,
appointing them, in turn, to represent him to men as he had represented
the Father to them (John xx. 21). But the time came when the first
witnesses were passing away, and they were not many who could say, "I saw
him." Our gospels are the result of the natural desire to preserve the
apostolic testimony for a generation that could no longer hear the
apostolic voice; and they are precisely what such a sense of need would
produce,--vivid pictures of Jesus, agreeing in general features, differing
more or less in details, reflecting individual feeling for the Master, and
written not simply to inform men but to convince them of that Master's
claims. One evidence of the reality of the gospel pictures is the fact
that we so seldom feel the individual characteristics of each gospel. This
is especially true of the first three, which, to the vividness of their
picture, add a remarkable similarity of detail. Tatian, in the second
century, felt it necessary to make a continuous narrative for the use of
the church by interweaving the four gospels into one, and he has had many
successors down to our day; but the fact that unity of impression has
practically resulted from the four pictures without recourse to such an
interweaving, invites consideration of the characteristics of these
remarkable documents.

23. The first gospel impresses the careful reader with three things: (1) A
clear sense of the development of Jesus' ministry. The author introduces
his narrative by an account of the birth of Jesus, of the ministry of John
the Baptist, and of Jesus' baptism and temptation and withdrawal into
Galilee (i. 1 to iv. 17). He then depicts the public ministry by grouping
together, first, teachings of Jesus concerning the law of the kingdom of
heaven, then a series of great miracles confirming the new doctrine, then
the expansion of the ministry and deepening hostility of the Pharisees,
leading to the teaching by parables, and the final withdrawal from Galilee
to the north. This ministry resulted in the chilling of popular enthusiasm
which had been strong at the beginning, but in the winning of a few hearts
to Jesus' own ideals of the kingdom of God (iv. 18 to xvi. 20). From this
point the evangelist leads us to Jerusalem, where rejection culminates,
the sterner teachings of Jesus are massed, and his victory in seeming
defeat is exhibited (xvi. 21 to xxviii. 20). (2) The evangelist's interest
is not satisfied by this clear, strong, picture; he wishes to convince men
that Jesus is Israel's Messiah, hence, throughout, he indicates the
fulfilment of prophecy. The things in which he sees the fulfilment are
striking, for, with but one or two exceptions, they are features of the
life of Jesus objectionable to Jewish feeling. This fact, taken in
connection with the emphasis which the gospel gives to the death of Jesus
at the hands of the Jews, and to the resurrection as God's seal of
approval of him whom his people rejected, forms a forcible argument to
prove the Messiahship of Jesus, not simply in spite of his rejection by
the Jews, but by appeal to that rejection as leading to God's signal
vindication of the crucified one. (3) This evangelist, while proving that
Jesus is the Messiah promised to Israel, recognizes clearly the freedom of
the new faith from the exclusiveness of Jewish feeling. The choice of
Galilee for the Messianic ministry (iv. 12-17), the comment of Jesus on
the faith of the centurion (viii. 10-12), the rebuke of Israel in the
parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (xxi. 33-46), and especially the last
commission of the risen Lord (xxviii. 18-20), show that this gospel sought
to convince men of Jewish feeling not only that Jesus is Messiah, but also
that as Messiah he came to bring salvation to all the world.

24. The second gospel is much simpler in construction than the first,
while presenting essentially the same picture of the ministry as is found
in Matthew. To its simplicity it adds a vividness of narration which
commends Mark's account as probably representing most nearly the actual
course of the life of Jesus. While it reports fewer incidents and
teachings than either of the others, a comparison with Matthew and Luke
shows a preference in Mark for Jesus' deeds, though addresses are not
wanting; and, while shorter as a whole, for matters which he reports
Mark's record is most rich in detail, most dramatic in presentation, and
actually longer than the parallel accounts in the other gospels. The whole
narrative is animated in style (note the oft-repeated "immediately") and
full of graphic traits. The story of Jesus seems to be reproduced from a
memory which retains fresh personal impressions of events as they
occurred. Hence the frequent comments on the effect of Jesus' ministry,
such as "We never saw it on this fashion" (ii. 12), or "He hath done all
things well" (vii. 37), and the introduction into the narrative of Aramaic
words,--_Boanerges_ (iii. 17), _Talitha, cumi_ (v. 41), and the like,
which immediately have to be translated. The gospel discloses no
artificial plan, the chief word of transition is "and." While some of the
incidents recorded, such as the second Sabbath controversy (iii. 1-6) and
the question about fasting (ii. 18-22), may owe their place to association
in memory with an event of like character, the book impresses us as a
collection of annals fresh from the living memory, which present the
actual Jesus teaching and healing, and going on his way to the cross and
resurrection. After the briefest possible reference to the ministry of
John the Baptist and the baptism and temptation of Jesus (i. 1-13), this
gospel proceeds to set forth the ministry in Galilee (i. 14 to ix. 50).
The narrative then follows Jesus to Jerusalem, by way of Perea, and closes
with his victory through death and resurrection (x. 1 to xvi. 8).

25. The third gospel is more nearly a biography than any of its
companions. It opens with a preface stating that after a study of many
earlier attempts to record the life of Jesus the author has undertaken to
present as complete an account as possible of that life from the
beginning. The book is addressed to one Theophilus, doubtless a Greek
Christian, and its chief aim is practical,--to confirm conviction
concerning matters of faith (i. 1-4). The author's interest in the
completeness of his account appears in the fact that it begins with
incidents antecedent to the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. Moreover,
to his desire for completeness we owe much of the story of Jesus,
otherwise unrecorded for us. Like the first two gospels, Luke represents
the ministry of Jesus as inaugurated in Galilee, and carried on there
until the approach of the tragedy at Jerusalem (iv. 14 to ix. 50). It is
in connection with the journey to Jerusalem (ix. 51 to xix. 27) that he
inserts most of that which is peculiar to his gospel. His account of the
rejection at Jerusalem, the crucifixion, and resurrection, follows in the
main the same lines as Matthew and Mark; but he gained his knowledge of
many particulars from different sources (xix. 28 to xxiv. 53). It is
characteristic of Luke to name Jesus "Lord" more often than either of his
predecessors. With this exalted conception is coupled a noticeable
emphasis on Jesus' ministry of compassion; here more than in any other
gospel he is pictured as the friend of sinners. Moreover, we owe chiefly
to Luke our knowledge of him as a man of prayer and as subject to repeated
temptation. An artificial exaltation of Christ, such as is often
attributed to the later apostolic thought, would tend to reduce, not
multiply, such evidences of human dependence on God. This fact increases
our confidence in the accuracy of Luke's picture. The gospel is very full
of comfort to those under the pressure of poverty, and of rebuke to
unbelieving wealth, though the parable of the Unjust Steward and story of
Zacchaeus show that it does not exalt poverty for its own sake. If our
first gospel pictures Jesus as the fulfilment of God's promises to his
people, and Mark, as the man of power at work before our very eyes,
astonishing the multitude while winning the few, Luke sets before us the
Lord ministering with divine compassion to men subject to like temptations
with himself, though, unlike them, he knew no sin.

26. The first three gospels, differing as they do in point of view and
aim, present essentially one picture of the ministry of Jesus; for they
agree concerning the locality and progress of his Messianic work, and the
form and contents of his teaching, showing, in fact, verbal identity in
many parts of their narrative. For this reason they are commonly known as
the Synoptic Gospels. Yet these gospels exhibit differences as remarkable
as their likenesses. They differ perplexingly in the order in which they
arrange some of the events in Jesus' life. Which of them should be given
preference in constructing a harmonious picture of his ministry? They
often agree to the letter in their report of deeds or words of Jesus, yet
from beginning to end remarkable verbal differences stand side by side
with remarkable verbal identities. Some of the identities of language
suggest irresistibly that the evangelists have used, at least in part, the
same previously existing written record. One of the clearest evidences of
this is found in the introduction, at the same place in the parallel
accounts, of the parenthesis "then saith he to the sick of the palsy"
which interrupts the words of Jesus in the cure of the paralytic (Mark ii.
10; Matt. ix. 6; Luke v. 24). When the three gospels are carefully
compared it appears that Mark contains very little that is not found in
Matthew and Luke, and that, with one or two exceptions, Luke presents in
Mark's order the matter that he has in common with the second gospel. The
same is also true of the relation between the latter part of the Gospel of
Matthew (Matt. xiv. 1 to the end) and the parallel portion of Mark; while
the comparison of Matthew's arrangement of his earlier half with Mark
suggests that the order in the first gospel has been determined by other
than chronological considerations. In a sense, therefore, we may say that
the Gospel of Mark reveals the chronological framework on which all three
of these gospels are constructed. Comparison discloses further the
interesting fact that the matter which Matthew and Luke have in common,
after subtracting their parallels to Mark, consists almost entirely of
teachings and addresses. Each gospel, however, has some matter peculiar to

27. In considering the problem presented by these facts, it is well to
remember that no one of these gospels contains within itself any statement
concerning the identity of its author. We are indebted to tradition for
the names by which we know them, and no one of them makes any claim to
apostolic origin. The earliest reference in Christian literature which may
be applied to our gospels comes from Papias, a Christian of Asia Minor in
the second century. He reports that an earlier teacher had said, "Mark,
having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not,
indeed, in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by
Christ, for he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as
I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teachings to the needs of his
hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord's
discourses. So that Mark committed no error when he thus wrote some things
as he remembered them, for he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of
the things which he had heard and not to state any of them falsely....
Matthew wrote the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language [Aramaic],
and every one interpreted them as he was able" (Euseb. Ch. Hist. iii. 39).
The result of many years' study by scholars of all shades of opinion is
the very general conclusion that the writing which Papias attributed to
Mark was essentially what we have in our second gospel.

28. It is almost as universally acknowledged that the work ascribed by the
second century elder to the apostle Matthew cannot be our first gospel;
for its language has not the characteristics which other translations from
Hebrew or Aramaic lead us to expect, while the completeness of its
narrative exceeds what is suggested by the words of Papias. If, however,
the matter which Matthew and Luke have in such rich measure in addition to
Mark's narrative be considered, the likeness between this and the writing
attributed by Papias to the apostle Matthew is noteworthy. The conclusion
is now very general, that that apostolic writing is in large measure
preserved in the discourses in our first and third gospels. The relation
of our gospels to the two books mentioned by Papias may be conceived,
then, somewhat as follows: The earliest gospel writing of which we know
anything was a collection of the teachings of Jesus made by the apostle
Matthew, in which he collected with simple narrative introductions, those
sayings of the Lord which from the beginning had passed from mouth to
mouth in the circle of the disciples. At a later time Mark wrote down the
account of the ministry of Jesus which Peter had been accustomed to relate
in his apostolic preaching. The work of the apostle Matthew, while much
richer in the sayings of Jesus, lacked the completeness that characterizes
a narrative; hence it occurred to some early disciple to blend together
these two primitive gospel records, adding such other items of knowledge
as came to his hand from oral tradition or written memoranda. As his aim
was practical rather than historical, he added such editorial comments as
would make of the new gospel an argument for the Messiahship of Jesus, as
we have seen. Since the most precious element in this new gospel was the
apostolic record of the teachings of the Lord, the name of Matthew and not
of his literary successor, was given to the book.

29. The third gospel is ascribed, by a probably trustworthy tradition, to
Luke, the companion of Paul. The author himself says that he made use of
such earlier records as were accessible, among which the chief seem to
have been the writings of Mark and the apostle Matthew. To Luke's
industry, however, we owe our knowledge of many incidents and teachings
from the life of Jesus which were not contained in these two records, and
with which we could ill afford to part. Some of these he doubtless found
in written form, and some he gathered from oral testimony. His close
agreement with Mark in the arrangement of his narrative suggests that he
found no clear evidence of a ministry of wider extent in time and place.
He therefore used Mark as his narrative framework, and of the rich
materials which he had gathered made a gospel, the completest of any
written up to his time.

30. Such in the main is the conclusion of modern study of our first three
gospels; it explains the general identity of their picture of Jesus and of
their report of his teaching; it leaves room for those individual
characteristics which give them so much of their charm; and it traces the
materials of the gospels far back of the writings as we have them,
bringing us nearer to the events which they describe. The dates of these
documents can be only approximately known. It is probable that the
"logia" collected by the apostle Matthew were written not later than 60 to
65 A.D., while the Gospel of Mark dates from before the fall of Jerusalem
in 70. Our first gospel must have been made between 70 and 100, and the
Gospel of Luke may be dated about the year 80,--all within sixty or
seventy years after the death of Jesus.

31. The fourth gospel gives us a picture of Jesus in striking contrast to
that of the other three. These present chiefly the works of the Master and
his teachings concerning the kingdom of God and human conduct, leaving the
truth concerning the teacher himself to be inferred. John opens the heart
of Jesus and makes him disclose his thought about himself in a remarkable
series of teachings of which he is the prime topic. This gospel is
avowedly an argument (xx. 30, 31); its selection of material is
confessedly partial; its aim is to confirm the faith of Christians in the
heavenly nature and saving power of their Lord; and its method is that of
appeal to testimony, to signs, and to his own self-disclosures. The
opening verses of the gospel have a somewhat abstract theological
character; the body of the book, however, consists of a succession of
incidents and teachings which follow each other in unstudied fashion like
a collection of annals. This impression is not compromised by the
recognition, at some points, of accidental displacements, like that which
has placed xiv. 30, 31 before xv. and xvi., or that which has left a long
gap between vii. 23 and the incident of v. 1-9, to which it refers. The
theme of the gospel is the self-disclosure of Jesus. This seems to have
determined the evangelist's choice of material, and, as the gospel is an
argument, he does not hesitate to mingle his own comments with his report
of Jesus' words, for example (iii. 16-21, 30-36; xii. 37-43). The book is
characterized by a vividness of detail which indicates a clear memory of
personal experience. While it is evident that the author has the most
exalted conception of the nature of his Lord, this seems to have been the
result of loving meditation on a friend who had early won the mastery over
his heart and life, and who through long years of contemplation had forced
upon his disciple's mind the conviction of his transcendent nature. The
book discloses a profoundly objective attitude; the Christ whom John
portrays is not the creature of his speculations, but the Master who has
entered into his experience as a living influence and has compelled
recognition of his significance. The Son of God is for John the human
Jesus who, though named at the outset the Word--the Logos,--is the Word
who was made flesh, that men through him might become the sons of God.

32. The contrast which the Gospel of John presents to the other three
concerns not only the teaching of Jesus, but the scene of his ministry and
its historic development as well. Whatever may be the final judgment
concerning the fourth gospel, it is manifestly constructed as a simple
collection of incidents following each other in what was meant to appear a
chronological sequence. It has been seen that the biographical framework
of the first three gospels is principally Mark's report of Peter's
narrative. Now it is a fact that in portions of Matthew and Luke, derived
elsewhere than from Mark, there are various allusions most easily
understood if it be assumed that Jesus visited Jerusalem before his
appearance there at the end of his ministry. Such, for instance, are the
parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke x. 25-37), the story of the visit to
Mary and Martha (Luke x. 38-42), and the lamentation of Jesus over
Jerusalem (Luke xiii. 34, 35; Matt, xxiii. 37-39). All three gospels,
moreover, agree in attributing to emissaries from Jerusalem much of the
hostility manifested against Jesus in his Galilean ministry (Luke v. 17;
Mark iii. 22; Matt. xv. 1; Mark vii. 1), and presuppose such an
acquaintance of Jesus with households in and near Jerusalem as is not easy
to explain if he never visited Judea before his passion (Mark xi. 2, 3;
xiv. 14; xv. 43 and parallels; compare especially Matt, xxvii. 57; John
xix. 38). These all suggest that the narrative of Mark does not tell the
whole story, a conclusion quite in accordance with the account of his work
given by Papias. It has been assumed that Peter was a Galilean, a man of
family living in Capernaum. It is not impossible that on some of the
earlier visits of Jesus to Jerusalem he did not accompany his Master, and
in reporting the things which he knew he naturally confined himself to his
own experiences. If this can explain the predominance of Galilean
incidents in the ministry as depicted in Mark, it will explain the
predominance of Galilee in the first three gospels, and the contradiction
between John and the three is reduced to a divergence between two accounts
of Jesus' ministry written from two different points of view.

33. The question of the trustworthiness of the fourth gospel is greatly
simplified by the consideration of the one-sidedness of Mark's
representation. It is further relieved by the fact that a ministry by
Jesus in Jerusalem must have been one of constant self-assertion, for
Jerusalem represented at its highest those aspects of thought and practice
which were fundamentally opposed to all that Jesus did and taught.
Whenever in Galilee, in the ministry pictured by the first three gospels,
Jesus came in contact with the spirit and feeling characteristic of
Jerusalem, we find him meeting it by unqualified assertion of his own
independence and exalted claim to authority, altogether similar to that
emphasis of his own significance and importance which is the chief
characteristic of his teachings in the fourth gospel. If it be remembered
that that gospel was avowedly an argument written to commend to others the
reverent conclusion concerning the Lord reached by a disciple whose
thought had dwelt for long years on the marvel of that life, and if we
recognize that for such an argument the author would select the instances
and teachings most telling for his own purpose, and would do this as
naturally as the magnet draws to itself iron filings which are mingled
with a pile of sand, the exclusively personal character of the teachings
of Jesus in this gospel need cause little perplexity. Nor need it seem
surprising that the words of Jesus as reported in John share the
peculiarities of style which mark the work of the evangelist in the
prologue to the gospel and in his epistles. His purpose was not primarily
biographical but argumentative, and he has set forth the picture of his
Lord as it rose before his own heart, his memory of events being
interwoven with contemplation on the significance of that life with which
his had been so blessedly associated. In a gospel written avowedly to
produce in others a conviction like his own, the evangelist would not have
been sensible of any obligation to draw sharp lines between his
recollection of his Lord's words and his own contemplations upon them and
upon their significance for his life. If these considerations be kept in
mind we may accept the uniform tradition of antiquity, confirmed by the
plain intimation of the gospel itself, that it is essentially the work of
John, the son of Zebedee, written near the close of his life in Ephesus,
in the last decade of the first century.

34. We have in our gospel records, therefore, two authorities for the
general course of the ministry of Jesus,--Mark and John. Even if the
fourth gospel should be proved not to be the work of John, its picture of
the ministry of Jesus must be recognized as coming from some apostolic
source. A forger would hardly have invited the rejection of his work by
inventing a narrative which seems to contradict at so many points the
tradition of the other gospels. The first and third gospels furnish us
from various sources rich additions to Mark's narrative, and it is to
these two with the fourth that we turn chiefly for the teachings of Jesus.
Each gospel should be read, therefore, remembering its incompleteness,
remembering also the particular purpose and individual enthusiasm for
Jesus which produced it.

35. A word may be due to two other claimants to recognition as original
records from the life of Jesus. One class is represented by that word of
the Lord which Paul quoted to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts xx.
35). Scattered here and there in writings of the apostolic and succeeding
ages are other sayings attributed to Jesus which cannot be found in our
gospels. A few of these so-called Agrapha seem worthy of him, and are
recognized as probably genuine. The most important of them is the story of
the woman taken in adultery (John vii. 53 to viii. 11), which, though not
a part of the gospel of John, doubtless gives a true incident from Jesus'
life. They represent the "many other" things which John and the other
gospels have omitted, but their small number proves that our gospels have
preserved for us practically all that was known of Jesus after the first
witnesses fell asleep. It is certainly surprising that so little exists to
supplement the story of the gospels, for they are manifestly fragmentary,
and leave much of Jesus' public life without any record. The other class
of claimants is of a quite different character,--the so-called Apocryphal
Gospels. These consist chiefly of legends connected with the birth and
early years of Jesus, and with his death and resurrection. They are for
the most part crude tales that have entirely mistaken the real character
of him whom they seek to exalt, and need only to be read to be rejected.


The Harmony of the Gospels

36. The church early appreciated the value and the difficulty of having
four different pictures of the life and teachings of the Lord. Irenaeus at
the close of the second century felt it to be as essential that there
should be four gospels as that there should be "four zones of the world,
four principal winds, and four faces of the cherubim" (Against Heresies
III. ii. 8).

37. Before Irenaeus, however, another had sought to obviate the difficulty
of having four records which seem at some points to disagree, by making a
combination of the gospels, to which he gave the title "Diatessaron."
Tatian, the author of this work, was converted from paganism about 152
A.D., and prepared his unified gospel, probably for the use of the Syrian
churches, sometime after 172. His work is one of the treasures of the
early Christian literature recovered for us within the last
quarter-century. It seems to have won great popularity in the Syrian
churches, having practically displaced the canonical gospels for nearly
three centuries, when, owing to its supposed heretical tendency, it was
suppressed by the determined effort of the church authorities. It is a
continuous record of Jesus' ministry, beginning with the first six verses
of the Gospel of John, passing then to the early chapters of Luke. It
closes with an account of the resurrection interwoven from all four
gospels, concluding with John xxi. 25. The arrangement follows generally
the order of Matthew, additional matter from the other gospels being
inserted at places which approved themselves to Tatian's judgment. Some
portions--in particular the genealogies of Jesus--were omitted altogether,
in accordance with views held by the compiler.

38. From Tatian's time to the present there have been repeated attempts to
construct a harmonious representation of events and teachings in the
ministry of Jesus, generally by setting the parallel accounts side by
side, following such a succession of events as seemed most probable. Our
evangelists cared little, if they thought at all, about the requirements
of strict biography, and they have left us records not easy to arrange on
any one chronological scheme. Concerning the chief events, however, the
gospels agree. All four report, for instance, the beginning of the work in
Galilee (Matt. iv. 12, 17; Mark i. 14, 15; Luke iv. 14, 15; John iv.
43-45); the feeding of the five thousand when Jesus' popularity in Galilee
passed its climax (Matt. xiv. 13-23; Mark vi. 30-46; Luke ix. 10-17; John
vi. 1-15); the departure from Galilee for the final visit to Jerusalem
(Matt. xix. 1, 2; Mark x. 1; Luke ix. 51; John vii. 1-10); and the week of
suffering and victory at the end (Matt. xxi. 1 to xxviii. 20; Mark xi. 1
to xvi. 8 [20]; Luke xix. 29 to xxiv. 53; John xii. 1 to xxi. 25).

39. These facts are enough to give us a clear and unified impression of
the course of Jesus' ministry. When, however, we seek to fill in the
details given in the different gospels, difficulties at once arise. Thus,
first, what shall be done with the long section which John introduces (i.
19 to iv. 42) before Jesus' withdrawal into Galilee? The other gospels
make that withdrawal the beginning of his public work. A second difficulty
arises from the unnamed feast of John v. 1. By one or another scholar this
feast has been identified with almost every Jewish festival known to us.
Another problem is furnished by the long section in Luke which is so
nearly peculiar to his gospel (ix. 51 to xviii. 14). If the section had no
parallels in the other gospels we might easily conclude that it all
belongs to a time subsequent to the final departure for Jerusalem; but it
contains at least one incident from the earlier ministry in Galilee (Luke
xi. 14-36; compare Mark iii. 19-30), and many teachings of Jesus given by
Matthew in an earlier connection appear here in Luke. Furthermore, the
section has to be adjusted to that portion of the Gospel of John which
deals with the same period and yet reports none of the same details.

40. If Mark has furnished the narrative framework adopted in the main by
the first and third gospels, the problem of the order of events in Jesus'
life becomes a question of the chronological value of Mark, and of the
estimate to be placed on the narrative of John. If the fourth gospel is
held to be of apostolic origin and trustworthy, the task of the harmonist
is chiefly that of combining these two records of Mark and John. The
testimony of the Baptist, with which the fourth gospel opens, must have
been given some time after he had baptized Jesus, and the ministry which
preceded Jesus' return to Galilee (i. 19 to iv. 42) belongs to a period
ignored by the other gospels. The first three gospels contain indications
that Jesus must have visited Judea before the close of his life. They give
no hint, however, of the time or circumstances of such earlier Judean
labor. In giving the emphasis they do to the work in Galilee, they present
a one-sided picture. When, therefore, we find in John a narrative of work
in Judea, confirmed by hints in the other gospels, we may justly assume
that the arrangement which fills out the ministry of Jesus by inserting at
the proper places in Mark's record the events found in John is essentially

41. The consideration of the one-sidedness of Mark's narrative simplifies
the problem of harmony, but it does not solve all of the perplexities.
Matthew and Luke have much matter, some of it narrative, which Mark has
not, and for which he suggests no place. Where shall we put, for instance,
the cure of the centurion's servant (Matt. viii. 5-13; Luke vii. 1-10), or
John the Baptist's last message (Matt. xi. 2-19; Luke vii. 18-35)? It
would simplify matters if we could take Luke's statement that he had
"traced the course of all things accurately from the first" (Luke i. 3),
as indicating that he had arrived at exact certainty concerning the order
of events of Jesus' life. It is probable, however, that his statement was
simply a claim that he had carefully gathered material for a record of the
whole life of Jesus, from the annunciation of his birth to his ascension.
While we may believe that some trustworthy tradition led him to give the
place he has to many of the incidents which he adds to Mark's story, it
seems impossible to follow him in all respects; for instance, in severing
the account of the blasphemy of the Pharisees (xi. 14-36) from the place
which it holds in Mark (iii. 19-30).

42. Still more uncertainty exists concerning the historic connection of
teachings of Jesus to which Matthew and Luke give different settings; for
example, the Lord's Prayer (Matt. vi. 9-15; Luke xi. 1-4), and the
exhortations against anxiety (Matt. vi. 25-34; Luke xii. 22-31). We have
seen that much of the teaching common to these gospels is probably derived
from the collection of the "oracles" of the Lord made by the apostle
Matthew. Everything that we can infer concerning such a collection of
oracles indicates that, while some of the teachings may have been
connected with particular historic situations (compare Luke xi. 1), many
would altogether lack such introductory words. A later example of what
such a collection may have been has come to light recently in the
so-called "Sayings of Jesus," discovered in Egypt and published in 1897.
In these the occasion for the teaching has been quite lost; the sole
interest centres in the fact that Jesus is supposed to have said the
things recorded. If Matthew's book contained such "logia" or "oracles," it
is probable that the original connection in which most of them were spoken
was a matter of no concern to the apostle, and consequently has been lost
This in no way compromises the genuineness of these sayings of Jesus. The
treatment of Luke ix. 51 to xviii. 14 is much simplified by this
consideration. To Luke's industry (i. 1-4) we owe the preservation of some
events and very many teachings which no other evangelist has recorded.
Some of this new material (for instance, vii. 11-17, 36-50) he has
assigned a place in the midst of Mark's narrative. Most of it, however,
he has gathered together in what seems to be a sort of appendix, which he
has inserted between the close of the ministry in Galilee and the final
arrival in Judea. For many of the teachings it is now impossible to assign
a time or place. That this is so will cause no surprise or difficulty if
we remember that in the earliest days the report of what Jesus said and
did circulated in the form of oral tradition only. It was the knowledge
that first-hand witnesses were passing away that led to the writing of the
gospels. During the period of oral tradition many teachings of the Lord
were doubtless kept clearly and accurately in memory after the historic
situations which led to their first utterance were quite forgotten.

43. This fact helps to explain another perplexity in our gospel
narratives. A comparison of the two accounts of the cure of the
centurion's servant reveals differences of detail most perplexing, if we
ask for minute agreement in records of the same events. When we see that
of two accounts evidently reporting the same incident, one can say that
the centurion himself sought Jesus and asked the cure of his servant
(Matt. viii. 5, 8), while the other makes him declare himself unworthy to
come in person to the Lord (Luke vii. 7), the question arises whether
other accounts, similar in the main but differing in detail, should not be
identified as independent records of one event. Were there two cleansings
of the temple (John ii. 13-22; Mark xi. 15-19), two miraculous draughts of
fishes (Luke v. 4-11; John xxi. 5-8), two rejections at Nazareth (Mark vi.
1-6; Luke iv. 16-30), two parables of the Leaven, of the Mustard Seed
(Matt. xiii. 31-33; Luke xiii. 18-21), and of the Lost Sheep (Matt, xviii.
12-14; Luke xv. 4-7)? Such similar records are often called doublets, and
the question of identity or distinctness can be answered only after a
special study of each case. It is important to notice that a given
teaching, particularly if it took the form of an illustration, would
naturally be used by Jesus on many different occasions. When, on the other
hand, we find two accounts of specific doings of Jesus similar in detail
it is needful to recognize that definite historic situations do not so
often repeat themselves as do occasions for similar or identical

44. All these considerations show that while the general order of events
in the life of Jesus may be determined with a good degree of probability,
we must be content to remain uncertain concerning the place to be given to
many incidents and to more teachings. Such uncertainty is of small
concern, since our unharmonized gospels have not failed during all these
centuries to produce one fair picture, to the total impression of which
each teaching and deed make definite contribution quite independently of
our ability to give to each its particular place in relation to the whole.
The degree of certainty attainable justifies, however, a continued
interest in the old study of harmony, because of the more comprehensive
idea it gives of the ministry depicted in the partial narratives of our
several gospels.


The Chronology

45. The length of the public ministry of Jesus was one of the earliest
questions which arose in the study of the four gospels. In the second and
third centuries it was not uncommon to find the answer in the passage from
Isaiah (lxi. 1, 2), which Jesus declared was fulfilled in himself. "The
acceptable year of the Lord" was taken to indicate that the ministry
covered little more than a year. The fact that the first three gospels
mention but one Passover (that at the end), and but one journey to
Jerusalem, seems at first to be favorable to this conclusion, and to make
peculiarly significant the care taken by Luke to give the exact date for
the opening of Jesus' ministry (iii. 1, 2). In fact, the second century
Gnostics, relying apparently on Luke, assigned both the ministry and death
of Jesus to the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar,--an interpretation which
may have given rise to the widely spread, early tradition, found, for
example, in Tertullian (Ante-nicene Fathers, in. 160), which placed the
death of Jesus in A.D. 29, during the consulship of L. Rubellius Geminus
and C. Fufius Geminus.

46. The theory that the ministry of Jesus extended over but little more
than one year is beset, however, by difficulties that seem insuperable.
The first is presented by the three Passovers distinctly mentioned in the
Gospel of John (ii. 13; vi. 4; xii. 1). The last of these is plainly
identical with the one named in the other gospels. The second gives the
time of year for the feeding of the five thousand, and agrees with the
mention of "the green grass" in the account of Mark and Matthew (Mark vi.
39; Matt. xiv. 19). John's first Passover falls in a section which demands
a place before Mark i. 14 (compare John iii. 24). Hence it must be shown
that this first Passover is chronologically out of order in the Gospel of
John, or the one year ministry advocated by the second century Gnostics,
by Clement of Alexandria, by Origen, and of late years by Keim and others,
is seen to be impossible. The fact that at this Passover Jesus cleansed
the temple, and that the other gospels assign such a cleansing to the
close of the ministry, suggests the possibility that John has set it at
the opening of his narrative for reasons connected with his argument. This
interpretation falls, however, before the perfect simplicity of structure
of John's narrative. The transitions from incident to incident in this
gospel are those of simple succession, and indicate, on the writer's part,
no suspicion that he was contradicting notions concerning the ministry of
Jesus familiar to his contemporaries. Whatever the conclusion reached
concerning the authorship of the gospel, the fact that it gained currency
very early as apostolic would seem to prove that its conception of the
length of Jesus' ministry was not opposed to the recognized apostolic
testimony. It is safe to conclude, therefore, that time must be allowed in
Jesus' ministry for at least three Passover seasons.

47. With this conclusion most modern discussions of the question rest, and
it is possible that it may finally win common consent. The order of
Mark's narrative, however, challenges it. This gospel records near the
beginning (ii. 23) a controversy with the Pharisees occasioned by the fact
that Jesus' disciples plucked and ate the ripening grain as they passed on
a Sabbath day through the fields. As Mark places much later (vi. 30-34)
the feeding of the five thousand, which occurred at a Passover, that is
the beginning of the harvest (Lev. xxiii. 5-11), his order suggests the
necessity of including two harvest seasons in the ministry in Galilee, and
consequently four Passovers in the public life of Jesus. Two
considerations are urged against this conclusion. (1) Papias in his
reference to the Gospel of Mark criticises the order of the gospel; (2)
Mark ii. 1 to iii. 6 contains a group of five conflicts with the critics
of Jesus, which represents a massing of opposition that seems unlikely at
the outset of his Galilean work. The remark of Papias must remain obscure
until his standard of comparison is known. Some suggest that he knew
John's order and preferred it, others that he agreed with that adopted by
Tatian in his Diatessaron. Mark is in accord with neither of these. No
one, however, knows what order Papias preferred. The early conflict group
does appear like a collection drawn from different parts of the ministry.
Yet the nucleus of the group--the cure of the paralytic (ii. 1-12) and the
call of Levi (ii. 13-17)--is clearly in its right place in Mark (see
Holtzmann, Hand-commentar, I. 10). The question about fasting (ii. 18-22)
may have been asked much later, and its present place may be due to
association in tradition with the criticism of Jesus' fellowship with
publicans (ii. 16). In like manner the cure of the withered hand (iii.
1-6) may have become artificially grouped with the incident of the
cornfields. It is possible, also, that both Sabbath controversies owe
their early place in the gospel to traditional association with the early
conflicts (ii. 1-17). If so, the plucking of the grain actually occurred
some weeks after the feeding of the five thousand, and probably after the
controversy about tradition (vii. 1-23), with which, according to Mark,
Jesus' activity in Galilee practically closed. It is not clear, however,
what principle of association drew forward to the early group the Sabbath
conflict, and left in its place the controversy about tradition. It is
thus possible that the incident of the cornfields belongs also to the
early nucleus of the group; and in this case the longer ministry,
including four Passovers, must be accepted. The decision of the question
is not of vital importance, but it affects the determination of the
sequence of events in Jesus' life. Whatever the explanation of the remark
of Papias, the more the gospels are studied the more does Mark's order of
events commend itself in general as representing the probable fact. Many
students have inferred the three year ministry from the Gospel of John
alone, identifying the unnamed feast in John v. 1 with a Passover. But
John's allusion to that feast is so indefinite that the length of Jesus'
ministry must be determined quite independently of it.

48. So long a ministry as three years presents some difficulties, for all
that is told us in the four gospels would cover but a small fraction of
this time. John's statement (xx. 30) that he omitted many things from
Jesus' life in making his book is evidently true of all the evangelists,
and long gaps, such as are evident in the fourth gospel, must be assumed
in the other three. Recalling the character of the gospels as pictures of
Jesus rather than narratives of his life, we may easily acknowledge the
incompleteness of our record of the three years of ministry, and wonder
the more at the vividness of impression produced with such economy of
material. This meagreness of material is not decisive for the shorter
rather than the longer ministry, for it is evident that to effect such a
change in conviction and feeling as Jesus wrought in the minds of the
ardent Galileans who were his disciples, required time. Three years are
better suited to effect this change than two.

49. Closely related to the question of the length of Jesus' ministry is
another: Can definite dates be given for the chief events in his life? For
the year of the opening of his public activity the gospels furnish two
independent testimonies: the remark of the Jews on the occasion of Jesus'
first visit to Jerusalem, "Forty and six years was this temple in
building" (John ii. 20), and Luke's careful dating of the appearance of
John the Baptist, "in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar" (iii. 1, 2).
John ii. 20 leads to the conclusion that the first Passover fell in the
spring of A.D. 26 or 27, since we learn from Josephus (Ant. xv. 11. 1)
that Herod began to rebuild the temple in the eighteenth year of his
reign, which closed in the spring of B.C. 19. Luke iii. 1 gives a date
contradictory to the one just found, if the fifteenth year of Tiberius is
to be counted from the death of his predecessor, for Augustus died August
19, A.D. 14. Reckoned from this time the opening of John's work falls in
the year A.D. 28, and the first Passover of Jesus' ministry could not be
earlier than the spring of 29. This is at least two years later than is
indicated by the statement in John. The remark in John is, however, so
incidental and so lacking in significance for his argument that its
definiteness can be explained only as due to a clear historic
reminiscence; but it does not follow that Luke has erred in the date given
by him. Although Augustus did not die until A.D. 14, there is evidence
that Tiberius was associated with him in authority over the army and the
provinces not later than January, A.D. 12. One who lived and wrote in the
reign of Titus may possibly have applied to the reign of Tiberius a mode
of reckoning customary in the case of Titus, as Professor Ramsay has shown
(Was Christ born at Bethlehem, 202). If this is the fact, Luke reckoned
from the co-regency of Tiberius; hence the fifteenth year would be A.D. 25
or 26, according as the co-regency began before or after the first of
January, A.D. 12. This would place the first Passover of Jesus' ministry
in the spring of 26 or 27, in agreement with the hint found in John.

50. If the public ministry of Jesus began with the spring of 26 or 27, the
close of three years of activity would, come at the Passover of 29 or 30.
The former of these dates agrees with the early Christian tradition
already mentioned. But before accepting that traditional date another
matter must be considered. Jesus was crucified on the Friday at the
opening of the feast of the Passover. Whether it was the day of the
sacrifice of the Passover (14 Nisan) or the day following (15 Nisan), is
not essential for the present question. As the Jewish month began with the
first appearance of the new moon, it is evident that, in the year of
Jesus' death, the month of Nisan must have begun on a day that would make
the 14th or the 15th fall on Friday. Now it can be shown that in the year
30 the 14th of Nisan was Thursday (April 6) or Friday (April 7), for at
best only approximate certainty is attainable. The tradition which assigns
the passion to 29, generally names March 25 as the day of the month. This
date is impossible, because it does not coincide with the full moon of
that month. The choice of March 25 by a late tradition may be explained by
the fact that it was commonly regarded as the date of the spring equinox,
the turning of the year towards its renewing. Mr. Turner has shown
(HastBD. I. 415) that another date found in an early document cannot be so
explained. Epiphanius was familiar with copies of the Acts of Pilate,
which gave March 18 as the date of the crucifixion; and it is remarkable
that this date coincides with the full moon, and also falls on Friday.
Such a combination gives unusual weight to the tradition, particularly as
there is no ready way to account for its rise, as in the case of March 25.
From this supplementary tradition the year 29 gains in probability as the
year of the passion. Without attempting to arrive at a final
conclusion,--a task which must be left for chronological specialists,--it
is safe to assume that Jesus died at the Passover of A.D. 29 or 30.

51. Concluding that Jesus' active ministry fell within the years A.D. 26
to 30, is it possible to determine the date of his birth? Four hints are
furnished by the gospels: he was born before the death of Herod (Matt. ii.
1; Luke i. 5); he was about thirty years of age at his baptism (Luke iii.
23); he was born during a census conducted in Judea in accordance with
the decree of Augustus at a time when Quirinius was in authority in Syria
(Luke ii. 1, 2); after his birth wise men from the East were led to visit
him by observing "his star" (Matt. ii. 1, 2). From these facts it follows
that the birth of Jesus cannot be placed later than B.C. 4, since Herod
died about the first of April in that year (Jos. Ant. xvii. 6. 4; 8. 1,
4). The awkwardness of having to find a date _Before Christ_ for the birth
of Jesus is due to the miscalculation of the monk, Dionysius the Little,
who in the sixth century introduced our modern reckoning from "the year of
our Lord."

52. But is it impossible to determine the time of Jesus' birth more
exactly? Luke (ii. 1, 2) offers what seems to be more definite
information, but his reference to the decree of Augustus and the enrolment
under Quirinius are among the most seriously challenged statements in the
gospels. It has been said (1) that history knows of no edict of Augustus
ordering a general enrolment of "the world;" (2) that a Roman census could
not have been taken in Palestine before the death of Herod; (3) that if
such an enrolment had been taken it would have been unnecessary for Joseph
and Mary to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; (4) that the census taken
when Quirinius was governor of Syria is definitely assigned by Josephus to
the year after the deposition of Archelaus, A.D. 6 (Ant. xviii. 1. 1; see
also Acts v. 37); (5) that if Luke's reference to this census as the
"first" be appealed to, it must be replied that Quirinius was not governor
of Syria at any time during the lifetime of Herod. This array of
difficulties is impressive, and has persuaded many conservative students
to concede that in his reference to the census Luke has fallen into error.
Some recent discoveries in Egypt, however, have furnished new information
concerning the imperial administration of that province. Inferring that a
policy adopted in Egypt may have prevailed also in Syria, Professor Ramsay
has recently put forth a strong argument for Luke's accuracy in respect of
this census (Was Christ born at Bethlehem, 95-248). That argument may be
condensed as follows: We have evidence of a system of Roman enrolments in
Egypt taken every fourteen years, and already traced back to the time of
Augustus, the earliest document so far recovered belonging, apparently, to
the census of A.D. 20. It is at least possible that this system of
Egyptian enrolments may have been part of an imperial policy, of which all
other trace is lost excepting the statement of Luke. It is significant
that the date of the census referred to by Josephus (A.D. 6) fits exactly
the fourteen-year cycle which obtained in Egypt. If the census of A.D. 6
was preceded by an earlier one its date would be B.C. 8; that is, it would
be actually taken in B.C. 7, in order to secure the full acts for B.C. 8.

53. The statement of Tertullian (Against Marcion, iv. 19) that a census
had been taken in Judea under Augustus by Sentius Saturninus, who was
governor of Syria about 9 to 7 B.C., certainly comes from some source
independent of the gospels, and tends to confirm Luke's account of a
census before the death of Herod. That a Roman census might have been
taken in Palestine during Herod's life is seen from the fact that in A.D.
36 Vitellius, the governor of Syria, had to send Roman forces into
Cilicia Trachaea to assist Archelaus, the king of that country, to quell a
revolt caused by native resistance to a census taken after the Roman
fashion (Tacitus, Ann. vi. 41). Herod would almost certainly resent as a
mark of subjection the order to enrol his people; and the fact that he was
in disfavor with Augustus during the governorship of Saturninus (Josephus,
Ant. xvi. 9. 1-3), suggests to Professor Ramsay that he may have sought to
avoid obedience to the imperial will in the matter of the census. If after
some delay Herod was forced to obey, the enrolment may have been taken in
the year 7-6. Since it is probable that the Romans would allow Herod to
give the census as distinctly Jewish a character as possible, it is easy
to credit the order that all Jews should be registered, so far as
possible, in their ancestral homes. Hence the journey of Joseph to
Bethlehem; and if Mary wished to have her child also registered as from
David's line, her removal with Joseph to Bethlehem is explained. Such a
delay in the taking of the census would have postponed it until after the
recall of Saturninus. The statement of Tertullian may therefore indicate
simply that he knew that a census was taken in Syria by Saturninus.

54. The successor of Saturninus was Varus, who held the governorship until
after the death of Herod. How then does Luke refer to the enrolment as
taken when Quirinius was in authority? It has for a long time been known
that this man was in Syria before he was there as legate of the emperor in
A.D. 6. There seems to be evidence that Quirinius was in the East about
the year B.C. 6, putting down a rebellion on the borders of Cilicia, a
district joined with Syria into one province under the early empire.
Varus was at this time governor, but Quirinius might easily have been
looked upon as representing for the time the power of the Roman arms. If
Herod was forced to yield to the imperial wish by the presence in Syria of
this renowned captain, the statement of Luke is confirmed, and the census
at which Jesus was born was taken, according to a Jewish fashion, during
the life of Herod, but under compulsion of Rome exacted by Quirinius,
while he was in command of the Roman forces in the province of
Syria-Cilicia. This gives as a probable date for the birth of Jesus B.C.
6, which accords well with the hints previously considered, inasmuch as it
is earlier than the death of Herod, and, if born in B.C. 6, Jesus would
have been thirty-two at his baptism in A.D. 26.

55. The account given in Matthew of "the star" which drew the wise men to
Judea gives no sure help in determining the date of the birth of Jesus,
but it is at least suggestive that in the spring and autumn of B.C. 7
there occurred a remarkable conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn.
This was first noticed by Kepler in consequence of a similar conjunction
observed by him in A.D. 1603. Men much influenced by astrology must have
been impressed by such a celestial phenomenon, but that it furnishes an
explanation of the star of the wise men is not clear. If it does, it
confirms the date otherwise probable for the nativity, that is, not far
from B.C. 6.

56. Can we go further and determine the time of year or the month and day
of the nativity? It should be borne in mind that our Christmas festival
was not observed earlier than the fourth century, and that the evidence
is well-nigh conclusive that December 25th was finally selected for the
Nativity in order to hallow a much earlier and widely spread pagan
festival coincident with the winter solstice. If anything exists to
suggest the time of year it is Luke's mention of "shepherds in the field
keeping watch by night over their flock" (ii. 8). This seems to indicate
that it must have been the summer season. In winter the flocks would be
folded, not pastured, by night.

57. It therefore seems probable that Jesus was born in the summer of B.C.
6; that he was baptized in A.D. 26; that the first Passover of his
ministry was in the spring of 26 or 27; and that he was crucified in the
spring of 29 or 30.


The Early Years of Jesus

Matt. i. 1 to ii. 23; Luke i. 5 to ii. 52; iii. 23-38

58. It is surprising that within a century of the life of the apostles,
Christian imagination could have so completely mistaken the real greatness
of Jesus as to let its thirst for wonder fill his early years with scenes
in which his conduct is as unlovely as it is shocking. That he who in
manhood was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. vii.
26), could in youth, in a fit of ill-temper, strike a companion with death
and then meet remonstrance by cursing his accusers with blindness (Gospel
of Thomas, 4, 5); that he could mock his teachers and spitefully resent
their control (Pseudo-Matthew, 30, 31); that it could be thought worthy of
him to exhibit his superiority to common human conditions by carrying
water in his mantle when his pitcher had been broken (same, 33), or by
making clay birds in play on the Sabbath and causing them to fly when he
was rebuked for naughtiness (same, 27);--these and many like legends
exhibit incredible blindness to the real glory of the Lord. Yet such
things abound in the early attempts of the pious imagination to write the
story of the youth of Jesus, and the account of the nativity and its
antecedents fares as ill, being pitifully trivial where it is not

59. How completely foreign all this is to the apostolic thought and
feeling is clear when we notice that excepting the first two chapters of
Matthew and Luke the New Testament tells us nothing whatever of the years
which preceded John the Baptist's ministry in the wilderness. The gospels
are books of testimony to what men had seen and heard (John i. 14); and
the epistles are practical interpretations of the same in its bearing on
religious life and hope. The apostles found no difficulty in recognizing
the divinity and sinlessness of their Lord without inquiring how he came
into the world or how he spent his early years; it was what he showed
himself to be, not how he came to be, that formed their conception of him.
Yet the early chapters of Matthew and Luke should not be classed with the
later legends. Notwithstanding the attempts of Keim to associate the
narratives of the infancy in the canonical and apocryphal gospels, a great
gulf separates them: on the one side there is a reverent and beautiful
reserve, on the other indelicate, unlovely, and trivial audacity.

60. The gospel narratives have, however, perplexities of their own, for
the two accounts agree only in the main features,--the miraculous birth in
Bethlehem in the days of Herod, Mary being the mother and Joseph the
foster-father, and Nazareth the subsequent residence. In further details
they are quite different, and at first sight seem contradictory. Moreover,
while Matthew sheds a halo of glory over the birth of Jesus, Luke draws a
picture of humble circumstances and obscurity. These differences, taken
with the silence of the rest of the New Testament concerning a miraculous
birth, constitute a real difficulty. To many it seems strange that the
disciples and the brethren of Jesus did not refer to these things if they
knew them to be true. But it must not be overlooked that any familiar
reference to the circumstances of the birth of Jesus which are narrated in
the gospels would have invited from the Jews simply a challenge of the
honor of his home. Moreover, as the knowledge of these wonders did not
keep Mary from misunderstanding her son (Luke ii. 19, 51; compare Mark in.
21, 31-35), the publication of them could hardly have helped greatly the
belief of others. The fact that Mary was so perplexed by the course of
Jesus in his ministry makes it probable that even until quite late in her
life she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart."

61. No parts of the New Testament are challenged so widely and so
confidently as these narratives of the infancy. But if they are not to be
credited with essential truth it is necessary to show what ideas cherished
in the apostolic church could have led to their invention. That John and
Paul maintain the divinity of their Lord, yet give no hint that this
involved a miraculous birth, shows that these stories are no necessary
outgrowth of that doctrine. The early Christians whether Jewish or Gentile
would not naturally choose to give pictorial form to their belief in their
Lord's divinity by the story of an incarnation. The heathen myths
concerning sons of the gods were in all their associations revolting to
Christian feeling, and, while the Jewish mind was ready to see divine
influence at work in the birth of great men in Israel (as Isaac, and
Samson, and Samuel), the whole tendency of later Judaism was hostile to
any such idea as actual incarnation. Some would explain the story of the
miraculous birth as a conclusion drawn by the Christian consciousness
from the doctrine of the sinlessness of Jesus. Yet neither Paul nor John,
who are both clear concerning the doctrine, give any idea that a
miraculous birth was essential for a sinless being. Some appeal to the
eagerness of the early Christians to exalt the virginity of Mary, This is
certainly the animus of many apocryphal legends. But the feeling is as
foreign to Jewish sentiment and New Testament teaching as it is
contradictory to the evidence in the gospels that Mary had other children
born after Jesus.

62. Moreover, the songs of Mary (Luke i. 46-55) and Zachariah (Luke i.
68--79) bear in themselves the evidence of origin before the doctrine of
the cross had transformed the Christian idea of the Messiah. That
transformed idea abounds in the Epistles and the Acts, and it is difficult
to conceive how these songs (if they were later inventions) could have
been left free of any trace of specifically Christian ideas. A Jewish
Christian would almost certainly have made them more Christian than they
are; a Gentile Christian could not have made them so strongly and
naturally Jewish as they are; while a non-Christian Jew would never have
invented them. Taken with the evidence in Ignatius (Ad Eph. xviii., xix.)
of the very early currency of the belief in a miraculous birth, they
confirm the impression that it is easier to accept the evidence offered
for the miracle than to account for the origin of the stories as legends.
The idea of a miraculous birth is very foreign to modern thought; it
becomes credible only as the transcendent nature of Jesus is recognized on
other grounds. It may not be said that the incarnation required a
miraculous conception, yet it may be acknowledged that a miraculous
conception is a most suitable method for a divine incarnation.

63. These gospel stories are chiefly significant for us in that they show
that he in whom his disciples came to recognize a divine nature began his
earthly life in the utter helplessness and dependence of infancy, and grew
through boyhood and youth to manhood with such naturalness that his
neighbors, dull concerning the things of the spirit, could not credit his
exalted claims. He is shown as one in all points like unto his brethren
(Heb. ii. 17). Two statements in Luke (ii. 40, 52) describe the growth of
the divine child as simply as that of his forerunner (Luke i. 80), or that
of the prophet of old (I. Sam. ii. 26). The clear impression of these
statements is that Jesus had a normal growth from infancy to manhood,
while the whole course of the later life as set before us in the gospels
confirms the scripture doctrine that his normal growth was free from sin
(Heb. iv. 15).

64. The knowledge of the probable conditions of his childhood is as
satisfying as the apocryphal stories are revolting. The lofty Jewish
conception of home and its relations is worthy of Jesus. The circumstances
of the home in Nazareth were humble (Matt. xiii. 55; Luke ii. 24; compare
Lev. xii. 8). Probably the house was not unlike those seen to-day, of but
one room, or at most two or three,--the tools of trade mingling with the
meagre furnishings for home-life. We should not think it a home of penury;
doubtless the circumstances of Joseph were like those of his neighbors. In
one respect this home was rich. The wife and mother had an exalted place
in the Jewish life, notwithstanding the trivial opinions of some
supercilious rabbis; and what the gospel tells of the chivalry of Joseph
renders it certain that love reigned in his home, making it fit for the
growth of the holy child.

65. Religion held sway in all the phases of Jewish life. With some it was
a religion of ceremony,--of prayers and fastings, tithes and boastful
alms, fringes and phylacteries. But Joseph and Mary belonged to the
simpler folk, who, while they reverenced the scribes as teachers, knew not
enough of their subtlety to have substituted barren rites for sincere love
for the God of their fathers and childlike trust in his mercy. Jesus knew
not only home life at its fairest, but religion at its best. A father's
most sacred duty was the teaching of his child in the religion of his
people (Deut. vi. 4-9), and then, as ever since, the son learned at his
mother's side to know and love her God, to pray to him, and to know the
scriptures. No story more thrilling and full of interest, no prospect more
rich and full of glowing hope, could be found to satisfy the child's
spirit of wonder than the story of Israel's past and God's promises for
the future. Religious culture was not confined to the home, however. The
temple at Jerusalem was the ideal centre of religious life for this
Nazareth household (Luke ii. 41) as for all the people, yet practically
worship and instruction were cultivated chiefly by the synagogue (Luke iv.
16); there God was present in his Holy Word. Week after week the boy Jesus
heard the scripture in its original Hebrew form, followed by translation
into Aramaic, and received instruction from it for daily conduct. The
synagogue probably influenced the boy's intellectual life even more
directly. In the time of Jesus schools had been established in all the
important towns, and were apparently under the control of the synagogue.
To such a school he may have been sent from about six years of age to be
taught the scriptures (compare II. Tim. iii. 15), together with the
reading (Luke iv. 16-19), and perhaps the writing, of the Hebrew language.
Of his school experience we know nothing beyond the fact that he grew in
"wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke ii. 52),--a
sufficient contradiction of the repulsive legends of the apocryphal

66. The physical growth incident to Jesus' development from boyhood to
manhood is a familiar thought. The intellectual unfolding which belongs to
this development is readily recognized. Not so commonly acknowledged, but
none the less clearly essential to the gospel picture, is the gradual
unfolding of the child's moral life under circumstances and stimulus
similar to those with which other children meet (Heb. iv. 15). The man
Jesus was known as the carpenter (Matt. xiii. 55). The learning of such a
trade would contribute much to the boy's mastery of his own powers. Far
more discipline would come from his fellowship with brothers and sisters
who did not understand his ways nor appreciate the deepest realities of
his life. Without robbing boyhood days of their naturalness and reality,
we may be sure that long before Jesus knew how and why he differed from
his fellows he felt more or less clearly that they were not like him. The
resulting sense of isolation was a school for self-mastery, lest isolation
foster any such pride or unloveliness as that with which later legend
dared to stain the picture of the Lord's youth. Four brothers of Jesus
are named by Mark (vi. 3),--James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon,--the
gospel adds also that he had sisters living at a later time in Nazareth.
They were all subject with him to the same home influences, and apparently
were not unresponsive to them. The similarity of thought and feeling
between the sermon on the mount and the Epistle of James is not readily
explained by the influence of master over disciple, since the days of
James's discipleship began after the resurrection of Jesus. In any case
there is no reason to think that the companions of Jesus' home were
uncommonly irritating or in any way irreligious, only Jesus was not
altogether like them (John vii. 5), and the fact of difference was a moral
discipline, which among other things led to that moral growth by which
innocence passed into positive goodness. If the home was such a school of
discipline, its neighbors, less earnest and less favored with spiritual
training, furnished more abundant occasion for self-mastery and growth.
The very fact that in his later years Jesus was no desert preacher, like
John, but social, and socially sought for, indicates that he did not win
his manhood's perfection in solitude, but in fellowship with common life
and in victory over the trials and temptations incident to it (Heb. ii.
17, 18).

67. Yet he must have been familiar with the life which is in secret (Matt.
vi. 1-18). He who in his later years was a man of much prayer, who began
(Luke iii. 21) and closed (Luke xxiii. 46) his public life with prayer, as
a boy was certainly familiar not only with the prayers of home and
synagogue, but also with quiet, personal resort to the presence of God. It
would be unjust to think of any abnormal religious precocity. Jesus was
the best example the world has seen of perfect spiritual health, but we
must believe that he came early to know God and to live much with him.

68. It is instructive in connection with this inwardness of Jesus' life to
recall the rich familiarity with the whole world of nature which appears
in his parables and other teachings. The prospect which met his eye if he
sought escape from the distractions of home and village life, has been
described by Renan: "The view from the town is limited; but if we ascend a
little to the plateau swept by a perpetual breeze, which stands above the
highest houses, the landscape is magnificent. On the west stretch the fine
outlines of Carmel, terminating in an abrupt spur which seems to run down
sheer to the sea. Next, one sees the double summit which towers above
Megiddo; the mountains of the country of Shechem, with their holy places
of the patriarchal period; the hills of Gilboa, the small picturesque
group to which is attached the graceful or terrible recollections of
Shunem and of Endor; and Tabor, with its beautiful rounded form, which
antiquity compared to a bosom. Through a gap between the mountains of
Shunem and Tabor are visible the valley of the Jordan and the high plains
of Perea, which form a continuous line from the eastern side. On the
north, the mountains of Safed, stretching towards the sea, conceal St.
Jean d'Acre, but leave the Gulf of Khaifa in sight. Such was the horizon,
of Jesus. This enchanted circle, cradle of the kingdom of God, was for
years his world. Indeed, during his whole life he went but little beyond
the familiar bounds of his childhood. For yonder, northwards, one can
almost see, on the flank of Hermon, Caesarea-Philippi, his farthest point
of advance into the Gentile world; and to the south the less smiling
aspect of these Samaritan hills foreshadows the dreariness of Judea
beyond, parched as by a burning wind of desolation and death." In the
midst of such scenes we are to understand that, with the physical growth,
and opening of mind, and moral discipline which filled the early years of
Jesus, there came also the gradual spiritual unfolding in which the boy
rose step by step to the fuller knowledge of God and himself.

69. That unfolding is pictured in an early stage in the story given us
from the youth of Jesus. It was customary for a Jewish boy not long after
passing his twelfth year to come under full adult obligation to the law.
The visit to Jerusalem was probably in preparation for such assumption of
obligation by Jesus. All his earlier training had filled his mind with the
sacredness of the Holy City and the glory of the temple. It is easy to
feel with what joy he would first look upon Zion from the shoulder of the
Mount of Olives, as he came over it on his journey from Galilee; to
conceive how the temple and the ritual would fill him with awe in his


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