Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/574

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

its ministers wait on their ministering with a due sense of the sacredness of their calling.




LITERARY NOTICES.

Gospel Criticism and Historical Christianity. By the Rev. Orello Cone, D. D. Putnams. Price, $1.75.

Never before was greater interest taken in religious problems. The Bible is the storm-center of modern philosophical, scientific, and historical discussions. The questions raised are of fundamental importance. They do not affect minor details only, but the very essence of the faith. The Bible used to be considered a book sui generis, whose statements must not be doubted and criticised, but must be accepted without question. Now it is asked: Who wrote the Scriptures? When were they written? Are they true? Manifestly, until these questions are answered it is wholly impertinent to ask us to accept these writings as inspired authorities. Nor are we willing to take the mere word of the Church on this subject, for the Church has made so many mistakes that its guidance can not be blindly accepted. We must be given facts and reasons upon which to rest our faith, and so biblical criticism has arisen. It is a modern product — not more than a hundred years old but, like the other modern sciences, it is most important. It does not aim to destroy religion or the Bible, but rather to free them from superstition, and make them more credible, attractive, and influential. This is certainly the object of the book under review. Dr. Cone is well known as the President of Buchtel College, Akron, Ohio, and brings to the study of his subject a ripe scholarship, a chastened judgment, and a reverent spirit. He gives us the results of the best German criticism of the Scriptures in a most readable form. First of all, in a criticism of the text of the Gospels, he shows that "these writings were exposed to the fortune which has attended all the literary productions of ancient times; that the autographs were early lost , that the text was corrupted and interpolated; that a considerable time elapsed between their composition and the appearance of careful and accurate quotations of them, during which the changes to which the text was subjected are indeterminable; that, however, alterations, corruptions, and interpolations have not, in all probability, materially affected their essential, historical contents — that is, their accounts of the great teachings of Jesus and their representation of his life and character." One of the most important chapters is the second, which discusses the canon of the New Testament. Our author finds no evidence in the writings of the earliest Christian fathers — Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Polycarp, Papias, Justin Martyr, and others to justify the conclusion that the Gospels were considered by them as of exclusive authority. On the contrary, these writings, "after having remained unnamed and undistinguished in the mass of early Christian literature for about a hundred years, are found to have made their way by the beginning of the third century to a general recognition in the Church as exclusive historical sources of the life and teachings of Jesus." This conclusion is of immense importance, especially when it is remembered that the canon was not established by a careful critical examination of testimonies, but the Gospels were accepted simply on the evidence of a very uncertain tradition. In the third chapter, Dr. Cone deals with "the synoptic problem." The question is, Why do the first three Gospels contain so much matter that is exactly the same in all of them, while each of them, nevertheless, has much that is peculiar to itself? Several hypotheses have been framed to solve the problem: (1) It is held that the later writers copied from the earlier; (2) all drew from a common written source, or an original Gospel; (3) a fixed oral tradition was the primitive source. Our author thinks there are insuperable objections to all these theories. The eminent German critic Schleiermacher sought to explain the synoptic phenomena by the assumption of several sources, embracing only parts of the history, which were variously combined by the three writers of the Gospels. Mark and the Aramaic Logia of Jesus, which Matthew is said to have written, were among these sources. Hence our present Gospels of Matthew and Luke were largely derived from these sources. . Dr. Cone adopts this view. He says: "The logia source written