Imágenes de páginas

lay canny plans whereby to continue their privileges as they were, confident that the masses of the people will never have brains enough to demand anything better, more just, more


Back, however, come the hordes of fighting men. On many fronts, in many armies, they have been fighting,-and thinking, these many months. They are young, and the young are always idealists; but they are idealists trained to efficiency and co-operation in a bitter but thorough school. They are, so those who carefully have observed them at the front tell us, quietly, determinedly set on making of America a place where no longer the few shall be ministered to by the many regardless of ability, where at last commonwealth shall be the wealth of folks in common and private wealth shall be given but in payment for achievement in service, and so where there shall be no breeding ground for that Bolshevik damnation which rises among a people who have looked upon an insane industrialism until it has destroyed their reason.

How simple it all is! How blind we have been! We have gone on year after year, with our small, snobbish minority permitted to do their silliest, wasting prodigally, patronizing art and literature and science and even the religion of God Most High, seeking to subsidize science and education and the pulpit, provoking the masses, and losing its own silly soul; and with the great masses of the people, common folk like us, who worked hard with brains and with brawn,-working men, professional men, business men and worthy women,-developing ambitions to eat of the nightingales' tongues.

Thank God for the war! In it we have eaten dirt together and thought straight together. Some of us died together and many of us cried together. Together we came to ourselves. Now the whole world proposes to socialize the surplus and make life worth living for all of us. No more shall the propertied few be permitted to parade as peacocks with the surplus wealth which should brighten the drabness of life which has been the lot of the great majorities. Hereafter we shall pay for mak

ing things, not for holding them. Men and women and children shall share with the Almighty His creative joy, and with Him learn to say of that which they produce, "Behold, it is good."

Such is the spirit of the day. What message shall the Church, brought with smashing suddenness face to face with its challenge, have to give? Upon the answer to that question depends, under God, the future of what is commonly called religion.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew



ERE beginneth the

verse of the


of the Gospel according to St. Matthew." Suppose the reader were someday to forget this liturgical introduction! It would be interesting to know how many persons in the ordinary congregation would be able to recognize the Gospel from which the Second Lesson was chosen, if the minister omitted thus to announce it and launched at once into the reading. It might be equally interesting if the case were altered, and the oversight occurred in a service attended mainly by clergy, say at Convention or the Deanery Meeting! One has no desire to scatter innuendoes right and left, particularly when it is fairly certain that a considerable number of them are going to "hit." Nevertheless, we repeat, it would be interesting indeed to know!

It is the custom of a certain Professor of English known to the writer to set examinations for his students by giving them random paragraphs from works of our classic authors, and requiring their identification from such indications of style, subject-matter, diction, etc., as the passages afford. What would happen if this custom were introduced in our seminaries, with passages chosen from the Gospels rather than from Thackeray, Dickens, Reade, Scott, Gibbon, Addison, or Mil

ton's prose? This also, we believe, would be a matter of considerable interest, and the experiment—at least one experiment -really should be made!

Of course, the question and the parallel are both more or less unfair. The differences in style, vocabulary, subject-matter and point of view which mark off the Fourth Gospel from the rest are decisive enough, as everyone knows. But hardly anyone will suppose that the other three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are as easily distinguishable (except by the specialist) in these respects as, let us say, Milton and Thackeray. Their subject-matter, or "material," and their text are alike so closely related that in certain passages no clear marks of individual authorship appear. And for the very best of reasons: as we shall see, they are closely related in origin and in literary history; their roots and branches both are inseparably intertwined. It is this striking similarity which has given rise to the name, "Synoptic Gospels": syn-optikos, sharing a common view, seeing together. The most casual reader of the Gospels will note this similarity at once.

Suppose and this is the last extravagant hypothesis I shall urge upon the reader's attention-suppose that the Gospel of Matthew had been unknown up to the present time. Suppose that it were discovered today in a heap of ancient manuscripts, in the cloister library on Mt. Athos, or on Mt. Sinai, or in some Fayûm town, in upper Egypt-or some other of those mines of treasure toward which academic eyes are ever turning hopefully for the recovery of the precious long-lost manuscripts of the ancient world. The first task would be to decipher and define its battered text, to assign the manuscript itself, i. e., its date of writing, when and if possible where it was copied off from some manuscript older still, to a particular century and locality. But back of the manuscript, back of all other nowperished or lost manuscripts from which it was copied, is the book itself. The next, and even greater task, would be to date the original book, of which we have discovered the manuscript copy. When was this written? And where? And for whom?

And-if possible to answer-by whom? It is necessary to fit the writing into a particular historical situation-place-circumstances-atmosphere-the milieu of outer and inner conditions; and if possible to discover its author, or at least to define his point of view and the purpose he had in mind when writing it. All this we should expect from the historical scholar, after the text had been recovered and published.

Happily, this is not the task before the student of the Gospel of St. Matthew today. For it is probable that from the very first period after the New Testament was written, or early in the second century, St. Matthew was the Gospel most popular in the Church, most commonly read and most widely attested in the writings of the post-Apostolic age. Nevertheless, the questions which we have just suggested as confronting the student of a freshly-discovered manuscript are to some extent those which actually confront the student of the Gospel. For it is remarkable that this Gospel, for all its popularity in the early centuries, comes down to us with nothing to indicate its place or place or date of composition, its purpose, the circumstances which led to its writing, or the position of its author in the Church. Even the name, "The Gospel according to Matthew," is a later title (though of course founded upon tradition of some sort). Hence, it is almost altogether a task of "internal" criticism to discover the answers to these questions: we have only the indications, such as they are, which the book itself affords.

How did we get our Gospels? No one will suppose that the Apostles and their helpers sat down and wrote them off, in the order in which they appear in our Bible today, and in some such manner as, according to the medieval legend, they composed the Apostles' Creed. Rather, as the Gospel of St. Luke suggests (1:1), a more or less complex and varied literary history lies back of the writing of the Gospels. And St. Matthew is by no means necessarily the earliest because it stands first in our collection of the New Testament writings. Some writers hold that it belongs third (Stanton, von Soden, etc.), many that it belongs

second (Sanday, Weiss, Holtzmann, etc.), but few indeed (e. g., Zahn) that it belongs first in the series, chronologically.

It will be impossible, and unnecessary, to review the critical discussions which have taken place in the effort to fit the Gospel of Matthew into its proper historical milieu during the past hundred years. We can give only a general survey of the situation as it is generally held by students today. And for this purpose, it will be necessary, and perhaps quite worth while, briefly to sketch the development of the Gospel literature as a whole, up to the time when our Matthew was written.


The need for written accounts of our Lord's life and teaching arose fairly early in the history of the Church. The reasons for this are simple and easy to see. On one hand was the demand from the missionary field (and the field was the world, Mt. 13:38) for definite and authoritative accounts by those who had been eye-witnesses from the first and companions of the Savior (Lk. 1:2). Then there was need for edification-for satisfying the the desire to study or to learn more about Christ-on the part of the new converts, especially among the Gentiles (Lk. 1:4). Above all, there was the apologetic need, to confute the Jews, i. e., those who were unbelieving, whose violent opposition and bitter calumnies were called forth from the first. (See Acts 9:22, where it is stated that immediately after his conversion Paul "confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.") Our Lord was not the Messiah of-at least the popular contemporary-Jewish expectations. What kind of a Messiah was He then? How could He be the Messiah, coming from Galilee, from Nazareth? (See Jn. 1:46 and 7:52; this evidently was a Jewish objection even as late as the writing of John's Gospel.) And why did He die on a cross, if He was God's Anointed, the Messiah? Why was He not seen in glory, as it was thus that the Messiah was to appear? It may not be too much to say that this last-named motive, the apologetic or defensive, was the one which acted most strongly to produce written records of the Lord's earthly life.

« AnteriorContinuar »