1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bible
BIBLE. The word “Bible,” which in English, as in medieval Latin, is treated as a singular noun, is in its original Greek form a plural, τὰ βιβλία, the (sacred) books—correctly expressing the fact that the sacred writings of Christendom (collectively described by this title) are made up of a number of independent records, which set before us the successive stages in the history of revelation. The origin of each of these records forms a distinct critical problem, and for the discussion of these questions of detail the reader is referred to the separate articles on the Biblical books. An account of the Bible as a whole involves so many aspects of interest, that, apart from the separate articles on its component books, the general questions of importance arising out of its present shape require to be discussed in separate sections of this article. They are here divided accordingly, into two main divisions:—(A) Old Testament, and (B) New Testament; and under each of these are treated (1) the Canon, (2) the texts and versions, (3) textual criticism, (4) the “higher criticism,” i.e. a general historical account (more particularly considered for separate books in the articles on them) of the criticism and views based on the substance and matter, as apart from criticism devoted to the correction and elucidation of the text, and (5) chronology. For the literary history of the translated English Bible, see the separate article under Bible, English.
(A) Old Testament
We shall begin by giving a general account of the historical and literary conditions under which the unique literature of the Old Testament sprang up, of the stages by which it gradually reached its present form, and (so far as this is possible) of the way in which the Biblical books were brought together in a canonical collection. There exists no formal historical account of the formation of the Old Testament canon. The popular idea that this canon was closed by Ezra has no foundation in antiquity. Certainly in the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras, written towards the end of the 1st century A.D., we read (xiv. 20-26, 38-48), that, the law being burnt, Ezra, at his own request, was miraculously inspired to rewrite it; he procured accordingly five skilled scribes, and dictated to them for forty days, during which time they wrote 94 books, i.e. not only (according to the Jewish reckoning) the 24 books of the Old Testament, but 70 apocryphal books as well, which, being filled, it is said, with a superior, or esoteric wisdom, are placed upon even a higher level (vv. 46, 47) than the Old Testament itself. No argument is needed to show that this legend is unworthy of credit; even if it did deserve to be taken seriously, it still contains nothing respecting either a completion of the canon, or even a collection, or redaction, of sacred books by Ezra. Yet it is frequently referred to by patristic writers; and Ezra, on the strength of it, is regarded by them as the genuine restorer of the lost books of the Old Testament (see Ezra).
In 2 Macc. ii. 13 it is said that Nehemiah, “founding a library, gathered together the things concerning the kings and prophets, and the (writings) of David, and letters of kings about sacred gifts.” These statements are found in a part of 2 Macc. which is admitted to be both late and full of untrustworthy matter; still, the passage may preserve an indistinct reminiscence of an early stage in the formation of the canon, the writings referred to being possibly the books of Samuel and Kings and some of the Prophets, a part of the Psalter, and documents such as those excerpted in the book of Ezra, respecting edicts issued by Persian kings in favour of the Temple. But obviously nothing definite can be built upon a passage of this character.
The first traces of the idea current in modern times that the canon of the Old Testament was closed by Ezra are found in the 13th century A.D. From this time, as is clearly shown by the series of quotations in Ryle’s Canon of the Old Testament, p. 257 ff. (2nd ed., p. 269 ff.), the legend—for it is nothing better—grew, until finally, in the hands of Elias Levita (1538), and especially of Johannes Buxtorf (1665), it assumed the form that the “men of the Great Synagogue,”—a body the real existence of which is itself very doubtful, but which is affirmed in the Talmud to have “written” (!) the books of Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets, Daniel and Esther—with Ezra as president, first collected the books of the Old Testament into a single volume, restored the text, where necessary, from the best MSS., and divided the collection into three parts, the Law, the Prophets and the “Writings” (the Hagiographa). The reputation of Elias Levita and Buxtorf led to this view of Ezra’s activity being adopted by other scholars, and so it acquired general currency. But it rests upon no authority in antiquity whatever.
The statement just quoted, however, that in the Jewish canon the books of the Old Testament are divided into three parts, though the arrangement is wrongly referred to Ezra, is in itself both correct and important. “The Law, the Prophets and the Writings (i.e. the Hagiographa)” is the standing Jewish expression for the Old Testament; and in every ordinary Hebrew Bible the books are arranged accordingly in the following three divisions:—
1. The Tōrāh (or “Law”), corresponding to our “Pentateuch” (5 books).
2. The “Prophets,” consisting of eight books, divided into two groups:—
(a) The “Former Prophets”; Joshua, Judges, Samuel; Kings.
(b) The “Latter Prophets”; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Minor Prophets (called by the Jews “the Twelve,” and counted by them as one book).
3. The “Writings,” also sometimes the “Sacred Writings,” i.e., as we call them, the “Hagiographa,” consisting of three groups, containing in all eleven books:—
(a) The poetical books, Psalms, Proverbs, Job.
(b) The five Megilloth (or “Rolls”)—grouped thus together in later times, on account of the custom which arose of reading them in the synagogues at five sacred seasons—Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther.
(c) The remaining books, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah (forming one book), Chronicles.1
There are thus, according to the Jewish computation, twenty-four “books” in the Hebrew canon. The threefold division of the canon just given is recognized in the Talmud, and followed in all Hebrew MSS., the only difference being that the books included in the Latter Prophets and in the Hagiographa are not always arranged in the same order. No book, however, belonging to one of these three divisions is ever, by the Jews, transferred to another. The expansion of the Talmudic twenty-four to the thirty-nine Old Testament books of the English Bible is effected by reckoning the Minor Prophets one by one, by separating Ezra from Nehemiah, and by subdividing the long books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. The different order of the books in the English Bible is due to the fact that when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C., the Hebrew tripartite division was disregarded, and the books (including those now known as the “Apocrypha”) were grouped mostly by subjects, the historical books being placed first (Genesis—Esther), the poetical books next (Job—Song of Songs), and the prophetical books last (Isaiah—Malachi). Substantially the same order was followed in the Vulgate. The Reformers separated the books which had no Hebrew original (i.e. the Apocrypha) from the rest, and placed them at the end; the remaining books, as they stood in the Vulgate, were then in the order which they still retain in the English Bible.
The tripartite division of the Hebrew canon thus recognized by Jewish tradition can, however, be traced back far beyond the Talmud. The Proverbs of Jesus, the son of Sirach (c. 200 B.C.), which form now the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, were translated into Greek by the grandson of the author at about 130 B.C.; and in the preface prefixed by him to his translation he speaks of “the law, and the prophets, and the other books of our fathers,” and again of “the law, and the prophets, and the rest of the books,” expressions which point naturally to the same threefold division which was afterwards universally recognized by the Jews. The terms used, however, do not show that the Hagiographa was already completed, as we now have it; it would be entirely consistent with them, if, for instance, particular books, as Esther, or Daniel, or Ecclesiastes, were only added to the collection subsequently. Another allusion to the tripartite division is also no doubt to be found in the expression “the law, the prophets, and the psalms,” in Luke xxiv. 44. A collection of sacred books, including in particular the prophets, is also referred to in Dan. ix. 2 (R. V.), written about 166 B.C.
This threefold division of the Old Testament, it cannot reasonably be doubted, rests upon an historical basis. It represents three successive stages in the history of the collection. The Law was the first part to be definitely recognized as authoritative, or canonized; the “Prophets” (as defined above) were next accepted as canonical; the more miscellaneous collection of books comprised in the Hagiographa was recognized last. In the absence of all external evidence respecting the formation of the canon, we are driven to internal evidence in our endeavour to fix the dates at which these three collections were thus canonized. And internal evidence points to the conclusion that the Law could scarcely have been completed, and accepted formally, as a whole, as canonical before 444 B.C. (cf. Neh. viii.-x.); that the “Prophets” were completed and so recognized about 250 B.C., and the Hagiographa between about 150 and 100 B.C. (See further Ryle’s Canon of the Old Testament.)
Having thus fixed approximately the terminus ad quem at which the Old Testament was completed, we must now begin at the other end, and endeavour to sketch in outline the process by which it gradually reached its completed form. And here it will be found to be characteristic of nearly all the longer books of the Old Testament, and in some cases even of the shorter ones as well, that they were not completed by a single hand, but that they were gradually expanded, and reached their present form by a succession of stages.
Among the Hebrews, as among many other nations, the earliest beginnings of literature were in all probability poetical. At least the opening phrases of the song of Moses in Exodus xv.; the song of Deborah in Judges v.; the fragment from the “Book of the Wars of Yahweh,” in Numbers xxi. 14, 15; the war-ballad, celebrating an Israelitish victory, in Numbers xxi. 27-30; the extracts from the “Book of Jashar” (or “of the Upright,” no doubt a title of Israel) quoted in Joshua x. 12, 13 (“Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon,” &c.); in 2 Sam. i. (David’s elegy over Saul and Jonathan); and, very probably, in the Septuagint of 1 Kings viii. 13 [Sept. 53], as the source of the poetical fragment in vv. 12, 13, describing Solomon’s building of the Temple, show how great national occurrences and the deeds of ancient Israelitish heroes stimulated the national genius for poetry, and evoked lyric songs, suffused with religious feeling, by which their memory was perpetuated. The poetical descriptions of the character, or geographical position, of the various tribes, now grouped together as the Blessings of Jacob (Gen. xlix.) and Moses (Deut. xxxiii.), may be mentioned at the same time. These poems, which are older, and in most cases considerably older, than the narratives in which they are now embedded, if they were collected into books, must have been fairly numerous, and we could wish that more examples of them had been preserved.
The historical books of the Old Testament form two series: one, consisting of the books from Genesis to 2 Kings (exclusive of Ruth, which, as we have seen, forms in the Hebrew canon part of the Hagiographa), embracing the period from the Creation to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans in 586 B.C.; the other, comprising the books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, beginning with Adam and ending with the second visit of Nehemiah to Jerusalem in 432 B.C. These two series differ from one another materially in scope and point of view, but in one respect they are both constructed upon a similar plan; no entire book in either series consists of a single, original work; but older writings, or sources, have been combined by a compiler—or sometimes, in stages, by a succession of compilers—in such a manner that the points of juncture are often clearly discernible, and the sources are in consequence capable of being separated from one another. The authors of the Hebrew historical books, as we now have them, do not, as a rule, as a modern author would do, rewrite the matter in their own language; they excerpt from pre-existing documents such passages as are suitable to their purpose, and incorporate them in their work, sometimes adding at the same time matter of their own. Hebrew writers, however, exhibit usually such strongly marked individualities of style that the documents or sources, thus combined, can generally be distinguished from each other, and from the comments or other additions of the compiler, without difficulty. The literary differences are, moreover, often accompanied by differences of treatment, or representation of the history, which, where they exist, confirm independently the conclusions of the literary analysis. Although, however, the historical books generally are constructed upon similar principles, the method on which these principles have been applied is not quite the same in all cases. Sometimes, for instance, the excerpts from the older documents form long and complete narratives; in other cases (as in the account of the Flood) they consist of a number of short passages, taken alternately from two older narratives, and dovetailed together to make a continuous story; in the books of Judges and Kings the compiler has fitted together a series of older narratives in a framework supplied by himself; the Pentateuch and book of Joshua (which form a literary whole, and are now often spoken of together as the Hexateuch) have passed through more stages than the books just mentioned, and their literary structure is more complex.
The Hexateuch (Gen.-Josh.).—The traditions current among the Israelites respecting the origins and early history of their nation—the patriarchal period, and the times of Moses and Joshua—were probably first cast into a written form in the 10th or 9th century B.C. by a prophet living in Judah, who, from the almost exclusive use in his narrative of the sacred name “Jahveh” (“Jehovah”),—or, as we now commonly write it, Yahweh,—is referred to among scholars by the abbreviation “J.” This writer, who is characterized by a singularly bright and picturesque style, and also by deep religious feeling and insight, begins his narrative with the account of the creation of man from the dust, and tells of the first sin and its consequences (Gen. ii. 4b-iii. 24); then he gives an account of the early growth of civilization (Gen. iv.), of the Flood (parts of Gen. vi.-viii.), and the origin of different languages (xi. 1-9); afterwards in a series of vivid pictures he gives the story, as tradition told it, of the patriarchs, of Moses and the Exodus, of the journey through the wilderness, and the conquest of Canaan. It would occupy too much space to give here a complete list of the passages belonging to “J”; but examples of his narrative (with the exception here and there of a verse or two belonging to one of the other sources described below) are to be found, for instance, in Gen. xii., xiii., xviii.-xix. (the visit of the three angels to Abraham, and the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah), xxiv. (Abraham’s servant sent to find a wife for Isaac), xxvii. 1-45 (Jacob obtaining his father’s blessing), xxxii., xliii., xliv. (parts of the history of Joseph); Ex. iv.-v. (mostly), viii. 20-ix. 7, x. 1-11, xxxiii. 12-xxxiv. 26 (including, in xxxiv. 17-26, a group of regulations, of a simple, undeveloped character, on various religious observances); Num. x. 29-36, and most of Num. xi.
Somewhat later than “J,” another writer, commonly referred to as “E,” from his preference for the name Elohim (“God”) rather than “Jehovah,” living apparently in the northern kingdom, wrote down the traditions of the past as they were current in northern Israel, in a style resembling generally that of “J,” but not quite as bright and vivid, and marked by small differences of expression and representation. The first traces of “E” are found in the life of Abraham, in parts of Gen. xv.; examples of other passages belonging to this source are:—Gen. xx. 1-17, xxi. 8-32, xxii. 1-14, xl.-xlii. and xlv. (except a few isolated passages); Ex. xviii., xx.-xxiii. (including the decalogue—in its original, terser form, without the explanatory additions now attached to several of the commandments—and the collection of laws, known as the “Book of the Covenant,” in xxi.-xxiii.), xxxii., xxxiii. 7-11; Num. xii., most of Num. xxii.-xxiv. (the history of Balaam); Josh. xxiv. “E” thus covers substantially the same ground as “J,” and gives often a parallel, though somewhat divergent, version of the same events. The laws contained in Ex. xx. 23-xxiii. 19 were no doubt taken by “E” from a pre-existing source; with the regulations referred to above as incorporated in “J” (Ex. xxxiv. 17-26), they form the oldest legislation of the Hebrews that we possess; they consist principally of civil ordinances, suited to regulate the life of a community living under simple conditions of society, and chiefly occupied in agriculture, but partly also of elementary regulations respecting religious observances (altars, sacrifices, festivals, &c.).
Not long, probably, after the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., a prophet of Judah conceived the plan of compiling a comprehensive history of the traditions of his people. For this purpose he selected extracts from the two narratives, “J” and “E,” and combined them together into a single narrative, introducing in some places additions of his own. This combined narrative is commonly known as “JE.” As distinguished from the Priestly Narrative (to be mentioned presently), it has a distinctly prophetical character; it treats the history from the standpoint of the prophets, and the religious ideas characteristic of the prophets often find expression in it. Most of the best-known narratives of the patriarchal and Mosaic ages belong to “JE.” His style, especially in the parts belonging to “J,” is graphic and picturesque, the descriptions are vivid and abound in detail and colloquy, and both emotion and religious feeling are warmly and sympathetically expressed in it.
Deuteronomy.—In the 7th century B.C., during the reign of either Manasseh or Josiah, the narrative of “JE” was enlarged by the addition of the discourses of Deuteronomy. These discourses purport to be addresses delivered by Moses to the assembled people, shortly before his death, in the land of Moab, opposite to Jericho. There was probably some tradition of a farewell address delivered by Moses, and the writer of Deuteronomy gave this tradition form and substance. In impressive and persuasive oratory he sets before Israel, in a form adapted to the needs of the age in which he lived, the fundamental principles which Moses had taught. Yahweh was Israel’s only god, who tolerated no other god beside Himself, and who claimed to be the sole object of the Israelite’s reverence. This is the fundamental thought which is insisted on and developed in Deuteronomy with great eloquence and power. The truths on which the writer loves to dwell are the sole godhead of Yahweh, His spirituality (ch. iv.), His choice of Israel, and the love and faithfulness which He had shown towards it, by redeeming it from slavery in Egypt, and planting it in a free and fertile land; from which are deduced the great practical duties of loyal and loving devotion to Him, an uncompromising repudiation of all false gods, the rejection of all heathen practices, a cheerful and ready obedience to His will, and a warm-hearted and generous attitude towards man. Love of God is the primary spring of human duty (vi. 5). In the course of his argument (especially in chs. xii.-xxvi.), the writer takes up most of the laws, both civil and ceremonial, which (see above) had been incorporated before in “J” and “E,” together with many besides which were current in Israel; these, as a rule, he expands, applies or enforces with motives; for obedience to them is not to be rendered merely in deference to external authority, it is to be prompted by right moral and religious motives. The ideal of Deuteronomy is a community of which every member is full of love and reverence towards his God, and of sympathy and regard for his fellow-men. The “Song” (Deut. xxxii.) and “Blessing” (Deut. xxxiii.) of Moses are not by the author of the discourses; and the latter, though not Mosaic, is of considerably earlier date.
The influence of Deuteronomy upon subsequent books of the Old Testament is very perceptible. Upon its promulgation it speedily became the book which both gave the religious ideals of the age, and moulded the phraseology in which these ideals were expressed. The style of Deuteronomy, when once it had been formed, lent itself readily to imitation; and thus a school of writers, imbued with its spirit, and using its expressions, quickly arose, who have left their mark upon many parts of the Old Testament. In particular, the parts of the combined narrative “JE,” which are now included in the book of Joshua, passed through the hands of a Deuteronomic editor, who made considerable additions to them—chiefly in the form of speeches placed, for instance, in the mouth of Joshua, or expansions of the history, all emphasizing principles inculcated in Deuteronomy and expressed in its characteristic phraseology (e.g. most of Josh. i., ii. 10-11, iii. 2-4, 6-9, x. 28-43, xi. 10-23, xii., xiii. 2-6, 8-12, xxiii.). From an historical point of view it is characteristic of these additions that they generalize Joshua’s successes, and represent the conquest of Canaan, effected under his leadership, as far more complete than the earlier narratives allow us to suppose was the case. The compilers of Judges and Kings are also (see below) strongly influenced by Deuteronomy.
The Priestly sections of the Hexateuch (known as “P”) remain still to be considered. That these are later than “JE,” and even than Deut., is apparent—to mention but one feature—from the more complex ritual and hierarchical organization which they exhibit. They are to all appearance the work of a school of priests, who, after the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C., began to write down and codify the ceremonial regulations of the pre-exilic times, combining them with an historical narrative extending from the Creation to the establishment of Israel in Canaan; and who completed their work during the century following the restoration in 537 B.C. The chief object of these sections is to describe in detail the leading institutions of the theocracy (Tabernacle, sacrifices, purifications, &c.), and to refer them to their traditional origin in the Mosaic age. The history as such is subordinate; and except at important epochs is given only in brief summaries (e.g. Gen. xix. 29, xli. 46). Statistical data (lists of names, genealogies, and precise chronological notes) are a conspicuous feature in it. The legislation of “P,” though written down in or after the exile, must not, however, be supposed to be the creation of that period; many elements in it can be shown from the older literature to have been of great antiquity in Israel; it is, in fact, based upon pre-exilic Temple usage, though in some respects it is a development of it, and exhibits the form which the older and simpler ceremonial institutions of Israel ultimately assumed. In “P’s” picture of the Mosaic age there are many ideal elements; it represents the priestly ideal of the past rather than the past as it actually was. The following examples of passages from “P” will illustrate what has been said:—Gen. i. 1-ii. 4a, xvii. (institution of circumcision), xxiii. (purchase of the cave of Machpelah), xxv. 7-17, xlvi. 6-27; Ex. vi. 2-vii. 13, xxv.-xxxi. (directions for making the Tabernacle, its vessels, dress of the priests, &c.), xxxv.-xl. (execution of these directions); Lev. (the whole); Num. i. 1-x. 28 (census of people, arrangement of camp, and duties of Levites, law of the Nazirite, &c.), xv., xviii., xix., xxvi.-xxxi., xxxiii.-xxxvi.; Josh. v. 10-12, the greater part of xv.-xix. (distribution of the land among the different tribes), xxi. 1-42. The style of “P” is strongly marked—as strongly marked, in fact, as (in a different way) that of Deuteronomy is; numerous expressions not found elsewhere in the Hexateuch occur in it repeatedly. The section Lev. xvii.-xxvi. has a character of its own; for it consists of a substratum of older laws, partly moral (chs. xviii.-xx. mostly), partly ceremonial, with a hortatory conclusion (ch. xxvi.), with certain very marked characteristics (from one of which it has received the name of the “Law of Holiness”), which have been combined with elements belonging to, or conceived in the spirit of, the main body of “P.”
Not long after “P” was completed, probably in the 5th century B.C., the whole, consisting of “JE” and Deuteronomy, was combined with it; and the existing Hexateuch was thus produced.
Judges, Samuel and Kings.—The structure of these books is simpler than that of the Hexateuch. The book of Judges consists substantially of a series of older narratives, arranged together by a compiler, and provided by him, where he deemed it necessary, with introductory and concluding comments (e.g. ii. 11-iii. 6, iii. 12-15a, 30, iv. 1-3, 23, 24, v. 31b). The compiler is strongly imbued with the spirit of Deuteronomy; and the object of his comments is partly to exhibit the chronology of the period as he conceived it, partly to state his theory of the religious history of the time. The compiler will not have written before c. 600 B.C.; the narratives incorporated by him will in most cases have been considerably earlier. The books of Samuel centre round the names of Samuel, Saul and David. They consist of a series of narratives, or groups of narratives, dealing with the lives of these three men, arranged by a compiler, who, however, unlike the compilers of Judges and Kings, rarely allows his own hand to appear. Some of these narratives are to all appearance nearly contemporary with the events that they describe (e.g. 1 Sam. ix. 1-x. 16, xi. 1-11, 15, xiii.-xiv., xxv.-xxxi.; 2 Sam. ix.-xx.); others are later. In 1 Sam. the double (and discrepant) accounts of the appointment of Saul as king (ix. 1-x. 16, xi. 1-11, 15, and viii., x. 17-27, xii.), and of the introduction of David to the history (xvi. 14-23 and xvii. 1-xviii. 5) are noticeable; in ix. 1-x. 16, xi. 1-11, 15, the monarchy is viewed as God’s gracious gift to His people; in viii., x. 17-27, xii., which reflect the feeling of a much later date, the monarchy is viewed unfavourably, and represented as granted by God unwillingly. The structure of the book of Kings resembles that of Judges. A number of narratives, evidently written by prophets, and in many of which also (as those relating to Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah) prophets play a prominent part, and a series of short statistical notices, relating to political events, and derived probably from the official annals of the two kingdoms (which are usually cited at the end of a king’s reign), have been arranged together, and sometimes expanded at the same time, in a framework supplied by the compiler. The framework is generally recognizable without difficulty. It comprises the chronological details, references to authorities, and judgments on the character of the various kings, especially as regards their attitude to the worship at the high places, all cast in the same literary mould, and marked by the same characteristic phraseology. Both in point of view and in phraseology the compiler shows himself to be strongly influenced by Deuteronomy. The two books appear to have been substantially completed before the exile; but short passages were probably introduced into them afterwards. Examples of passages due to the compiler: 1 Kings ii. 3-4, viii. 14-61 (the prayer of dedication put into Solomon’s mouth), ix. 1-9, xi. 32b-39, xiv. 7-11, 19-20, 21-24, 29-31, xv. 1-15, xxi. 20b-26; 2 Kings ix. 7-10a, xvii. 7-23.
The Latter Prophets.—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve. The writings of the canonical prophets form another important element in the Old Testament, also, like the historical books, of gradual growth. Beginning with Amos and Hosea, they form a series which was not completed till more than three centuries had passed away. The activity of the prophets was largely called forth by crises in the national history. They were partly moral reformers, partly religious teachers, partly political advisers. They held up before a backsliding people the ideals of human duty, of religious truth and of national policy. They expanded and developed, and applied to new situations and circumstances of the national life, the truths which in a more germinal form they had inherited from their ancestors. The nature and attributes of God; His gracious purposes towards man; the relation of man to God, with the practical consequences that follow from it; the true nature of religious service; the call to repentance as the condition of God’s favour; the ideal of character and action which each man should set before himself; human duty under its various aspects; the responsibilities of office and position; the claims of mercy and philanthropy, justice and integrity; indignation against the oppression of the weak and the unprotected; ideals of a blissful future, when the troubles of the present will be over, and men will bask in the enjoyment of righteousness and felicity,—these, and such as these, are the themes which are ever in the prophets’ mouths, and on which they enlarge with unwearying eloquence and power.
For the more special characteristics of the individual prophets, reference must be made to the separate articles devoted to each; it is impossible to do more here than summarize briefly the literary structure of their various books.
Isaiah.—The book of Isaiah falls into two clearly distinguished parts, viz. chs. i.-xxxix., and xl.-lxvi. Chs. xl.-lxvi., however, are not by Isaiah, but are the work of a prophet who wrote about 540 B.C., shortly before the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and whose aim was to encourage the Israelites in exile, and assure them of the certainty of their approaching restoration to Canaan. (According to many recent critics, this prophet wrote only chs. xl.-lv., chs. lvi.-lxvi. being added subsequently, some time after the return.) The genuine prophecies of Isaiah are contained in chs. i.-xii., xiv. 24-xxiii., xxviii.-xxxiii., xxxvii. 22-32,—all written between 740 and 700 B.C. (or a little later), and all (except ch. vi.) having reference to the condition of Judah and Israel, and the movements of the Assyrians during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah. The opinion has, however, latterly gained ground that parts even of these chapters are of later origin than Isaiah’s own time. Of the rest of chs. i.-xxxix. this is generally admitted. Thus chs. xiii. 1-xiv. 23, xxi. 1-10, xxxiv.-xxxv. belong to the same age as chs. xl.-lxvi., xiii. 1-xiv. 23, and xxi. 1-10, looking forward similarly to the approaching fall of Babylon; chs. xxiv.-xxvii. have a character of their own, and form an apocalypse written not earlier than the 5th century B.C.; chs. xxxvi.-xxxix., describing incidents in which Isaiah took a part, consist of narratives excerpted from 2 Kings xviii. 13-xx. with the addition of Hezekiah’s song (xxxviii. 9-20). It is evident from these facts that the book of Isaiah did not assume its present form till considerably after the return of the Jews from exile in 537, when a compiler, or series of compilers, arranged the genuine prophecies of Isaiah which had come to his hands, together with others which at the time were attributed to Isaiah, and gave the book its present form.
Jeremiah.—Jeremiah’s first public appearance as a prophet was in the 13th year of Josiah (Jer. i. 2, xxv. 3), i.e. 626 B.C., and his latest prophecy (ch. xliv.) was delivered by him in Egypt, whither he was carried, against his will, by some of the Jews who had been left in Judah, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 586. Jeremiah was keenly conscious of his people’s sin; and the aim of most of his earlier prophecies is to bring his countrymen, if possible, to a better mind, in the hope that thereby the doom which he sees impending may be averted—an end which eventually he saw clearly to be unattainable. Jeremiah’s was a sensitive, tender nature; and he laments, with great pathos and emotion, his people’s sins, the ruin to which he saw his country hastening, and the trials and persecutions which his predictions of disaster frequently brought upon him. A large part of his book is biographical, describing various incidents of his ministry. Prophecies of restoration are contained in chs. xxx.-xxxiii. The prophecies of the first twenty-three years of his ministry, as we are expressly told in ch. xxxvi., were first written down in 604 B.C. by his friend and amanuensis Baruch, and the roll thus formed must have formed the nucleus of the present book. Some of the reports of Jeremiah’s prophecies, and especially the biographical narratives, also probably have Baruch for their author. But the chronological disorder of the book, and other indications, show that Baruch could not have been the compiler of the book, but that the prophecies and narratives contained in it were collected together gradually, and that it reached its present form by a succession of stages, which were not finally completed till long after Israel’s return from Babylon. The long prophecy (l. 1-li. 58), announcing the approaching fall of Babylon, is not by Jeremiah, and cannot have been written till shortly before 538 B.C.
Ezekiel.—Ezekiel was one of the captives who were carried with Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. to Babylonia, and was settled with many other exiles at a place called Tel-abib (iii. 15). His prophecies (which are regularly dated) are assigned to various years from 592 to 570 B.C. The theme of the first twenty-four chapters of his book is the impending fall of Jerusalem, which took place actually in 586, and which Ezekiel foretells in a series of prophecies, distinguished by great variety of symbolism and imagery. Chs. xxv.-xxxii. are on various foreign nations, Edom, Tyre, Egypt, &c. Prophecies of Israel’s future restoration follow in chs. xxxiii.-xlviii., chs. xl.-xlviii. being remarkable for the minuteness with which Ezekiel describes the organization of the restored community, as he would fain see it realized, including even such details as the measurements and other arrangements of the Temple, the sacrifices to be offered in it, the duties and revenues of the priests, and the redistribution of the country among the twelve tribes. The book of Ezekiel bears throughout the stamp of a single mind; the prophecies contained in it are arranged methodically; and to all appearance—in striking contrast to the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah—it received the form in which we still have it from the prophet himself.
The Twelve Minor Prophets.—These, as was stated above, were reckoned by the Jews as forming a single “book.” The two earliest of the Minor Prophets, Amos and Hosea, prophesied in the northern kingdom, at about 760 and 740 B.C. respectively; both foresaw the approaching ruin of northern Israel at the hands of the Assyrians, which took place in fact when Sargon took Samaria in 722 B.C.; and both did their best to stir their people to better things. The dates of the other Minor Prophets (in some cases approximate) are: Micah, c. 725-c. 680 B.C. (some passages perhaps later); Zephaniah, c. 625; Nahum, shortly before the destruction of Nineveh by the Manda in 607; Habakkuk (on the rise and destiny of the Chaldaean empire) 605-600; Obadiah, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans in 586; Haggai, 520; Zechariah, i.-viii. (as in Haggai, promises and encouragements connected with the rebuilding of the Temple) 520 and 518; Malachi, c. 460-450; Joel, 5th century B.C.; Jonah, 4th century B.C. The latest prophecies in the book are, probably, those contained in Zech. ix.-xiv. which reflect entirely different historical conditions from Zech. i.-viii. (520 and 518 B.C.), and may be plausibly assigned to the period beginning with the conquests of Alexander the Great, between 332 and c. 300 B.C. Why these prophecies were attached to Zech. i.-viii. must remain matter of conjecture; but there are reasons for supposing that, together with the prophecy of Malachi, they came to the compiler of the “book” of the Twelve Prophets anonymously, and he simply attached them at the point which his collection had reached (i.e. at the end of Zech. viii.).
The Psalms.—The Psalter is that part of the Old Testament in which the devotional aspect of the religious character finds its completest expression; and in lyrics of exquisite tenderness and beauty the most varied emotions are poured forth by the psalmists to their God—despondency and distress, penitence and resignation, hope and confidence, jubilation and thankfulness, adoration and praise. The Psalter, it is clear from many indications, is not the work of a single compiler, but was formed gradually. A single compiler is not likely to have introduced double recensions of one and the same psalm (as Ps. liii. = Ps. xiv., Ps. lxx. = Ps. xi. 13-17, Ps. cviii. = Ps. lvii. 7-11 + lx. 5-12); in the Hebrew canon the Psalter is composed of five books (i.-xli., xlii.-lxxii., lxxiii.-lxxxix., xc.-cvi., cvii.-cl.); and in many parts it is manifestly based upon independent smaller collections; for it contains groups of psalms headed “David,” the “sons of Korah,” “Asaph,” “Songs of Ascents.” Each of the five books of which it is composed contains psalms which show that its compilation cannot have been completed till after the return from the Captivity; and indeed, when the individual psalms are studied carefully it becomes apparent that in the great majority of cases they presuppose the historical conditions, or the religious experiences, of the ages that followed Jeremiah. Thus, though it is going too far to say that there are no pre-exilic psalms, the Psalter, as a whole, is the expression of the deeper spiritual feeling which marked the later stages of Israel’s history. It has been not inaptly termed the Hymn-book of the second Temple. Its compilation can hardly have been finally completed before the 3rd century B.C.; if it is true, as many scholars think, that there are psalms dating from the time of the Maccabee struggle (Ps. xliv., lxxiv., lxxix., lxxxiii, and perhaps others), it cannot have been completed till after 165 B.C.
The Book of Proverbs.—This is the first of the three books belonging to the “Wisdom-literature” of the Hebrews, the other two books being Job and Ecclesiastes. The Wisdom-literature of the Hebrews concerned itself with what we should call the philosophy of human nature, and sometimes also of physical nature as well; its writers observed human character, studied action in its consequences, laid down maxims for education and conduct, and reflected on the moral problems which human society presents. The book of Proverbs consists essentially of generalizations on human character and conduct, with (especially in chs. i.-ix.) moral exhortations addressed to an imagined “son” or pupil. The book consists of eight distinct portions, chs. i.-ix. being introductory, the proverbs, properly so called, beginning at x. 1 (with the title “The Proverbs of Solomon”), and other, shorter collections, beginning at xxii. 17, xxiv. 23, xxv. 1, xxx. 1, xxxi. 1, xxxi. 10 respectively. The book, it is evident, was formed gradually. A small nucleus of the proverbs may be Solomon’s; but the great majority represent no doubt the generalizations of a long succession of “wise men.” The introduction, or “Praise of Wisdom,” as it has been called (chs. i.-ix), commending the maxims of Wisdom as a guide to the young, will have been added after most of the rest of the book was already complete. The book will not have finally reached its present form before the 4th century B.C. Some scholars believe that it dates entirely from the Greek period (which began 332 B.C.); but it may be doubted whether there are sufficient grounds for this conclusion.
Job.—The book of Job deals with a problem of human life; in modern phraseology it is a work of religious philosophy. Job is a righteous man, overwhelmed with undeserved misfortune; and thus the question is raised, Why do the righteous suffer? Is their suffering consistent with the justice of God? The dominant theory at the time when Job was written was that all suffering was a punishment of sin; and the aim of the book is to controvert this theory. Job’s friends argue that he must have been guilty of some grave sin; Job himself passionately maintains his innocence; and on the issue thus raised the dialogue of the book turns. The outline of Job’s story was no doubt supplied by tradition; and a later poet has developed this outline, and made it a vehicle for expressing his new thoughts respecting a great moral problem which perplexed his contemporaries. A variety of indications (see Job) combine to show that the book of Job was not written till after the time of Jeremiah—probably, indeed, not till after the return from exile. The speeches of Elihu (chs. xxxii.-xxxvii.) are not part of the original poem, but were inserted in it afterwards.
There follow (in the Hebrew Bible) the five short books, which, as explained above, are now known by the Jews as the Megilloth, or “Rolls,” viz. Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. Of these, the Song of Songs, in exquisite poetry, extols the power and sweetness of pure and faithful human love. The date at which it was written is uncertain; there are features in it which point to its having been the work of a poet living in north Israel, and writing at an early date; but most recent scholars, on account chiefly of certain late expressions occurring in it, think that it cannot have been written earlier than the 4th or 3rd century B.C. In the graceful and tender idyll of Ruth, it is told how Ruth, the Moabitess, and a native consequently of a country hostile theocratically to Israel, adopted Israel’s faith (i. 16), and was counted worthy to become an ancestress of David. The date of Ruth is disputed; Driver has defended a pre-exilic date for it, but the general opinion of modern scholars is that it belongs to the 5th century B.C. The Lamentations consist of five elegies on the fall of Jerusalem, and the sufferings which its people experienced in consequence; they must all have been composed not long after 586 B.C. Ecclesiastes, the third book belonging (see above) to the Wisdom-literature, consists of moralizings, prompted by the dark times in which the author’s lot in life was cast, on the disappointments which seemed to him to be the reward of all human endeavour, and the inability of man to remedy the injustices and anomalies of society. If only upon linguistic grounds—for the Hebrew of the book resembles often that of the Mishnah more than the ordinary Hebrew of the Old Testament—Ecclesiastes must be one of the latest books in the Hebrew canon. It was most probably written during the Greek period towards the end of the 3rd century B.C. The book of Esther, which describes, with many legendary traits, how the beautiful Jewess succeeded in rescuing her people from the destruction which Haman had prepared for them, will not be earlier than the closing years of the 4th century B.C., and is thought by many scholars to be even later.
The Book of Daniel.—The aim of this book is to strengthen and encourage the pious Jews in their sufferings under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, 168-165 B.C. Chs. i.-vi. consist of narratives, constructed no doubt upon a traditional basis, of the experiences of Daniel at the Babylonian court, between 605 and 538 B.C., with the design of illustrating how God, in times of trouble, defends and succours His faithful servants. Chs. vii.-xii. contain a series of visions, purporting to have been seen by Daniel, and describing, sometimes (especially in ch. xi.) with considerable minuteness, the course of events from Alexander the Great, through the two royal lines of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae, to Antiochus Epiphanes, dwelling in particular on the persecuting measures adopted by Antiochus against the Jews, and promising the tyrant’s speedy fall (see e.g. viii. 9-14, 23-25, xi. 21-45). Internal evidence shows clearly that the book cannot have been written by Daniel himself; and that it must in fact be a product of the period in which its interest culminates, and the circumstances of which it so accurately reflects, i.e. of 168-165 B.C.
Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.—These books form the second series of historical books referred to above, Ezra and Nehemiah carrying on the narrative of Chronicles, and forming its direct sequel. 1 Chr. i.-ix. consists mostly of tribal genealogies, partly based upon data contained in the older books (Gen.-Kings), partly including materials found by the compiler elsewhere. 1 Chr. x.-2 Chr. xxxvi. consists of a series of excerpts from the books of Samuel and Kings—sometimes transcribed without substantial change, at other times materially altered in the process—combined with matter, in some cases limited to a verse or two, in others extending to several chapters, contributed by the compiler himself, and differing markedly from the excerpts from the older books both in phraseology and in point of view. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are of similar structure; here the sources excerpted are the Memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah, written by themselves in the first person; viz. Ezra vii. 12-ix. (including the decree of Artaxerxes, vii. 12-26); Neh. i. 1-vii. 73a, xii. 31-41, xiii.; and a narrative written in Aramaic (Ezra iv. 8-vi. 18); Ezra x. and Neh. viii.-x. also are in all probability based pretty directly upon the Memoirs of Ezra; the remaining parts of the books are the composition of the compiler. The additions of the compiler, especially in the Chronicles, place the old history in a new light; he invests it with the associations of his own day; and pictures pre-exilic Judah as already possessing the fully developed ceremonial system, under which he lived himself, and as ruled by the ideas and principles current among his contemporaries. There is much in his representation of the past which cannot be historical. For examples of narratives which are his composition see 1 Chr. xv. 1-24, xvi. 4-42, xxii. 2-xxix.; 2 Chr. xiii. 3-22, xiv. 6-xv. 15, xvi. 7-11, xvii., xix. 1-xx. 30, xxvi. 16-20, xxix. 3-xxxi. 21. On account of the interest shown by the compiler in the ecclesiastical aspects of the history, his work has been not inaptly called the “Ecclesiastical Chronicle of Jerusalem.” From historical allusions in the book of Nehemiah, it may be inferred that the compiler wrote at about 300 B.C. (S. R. D.)
2. Texts and Versions.
Text.—The form in which the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is presented to us in all MSS. and printed editions is that of the Massoretic text, the date of which is usually placed somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries of the Christian era. It is probable that the present text became fixed as early as the 2nd century A.D., but even this earlier date leaves a long interval between the original autographs of the Old Testament writers and our present text. Since the fixing of the Massoretic text the task of preserving and transmitting the sacred books has been carried out with the greatest care and fidelity, with the result that the text has undergone practically no change of any real importance; but before that date, owing to various causes, it is beyond dispute that a large number of corruptions were introduced into the Hebrew text. In dealing, therefore, with the textual criticism of the Old Testament it is necessary to determine the period at which the text assumed its present fixed form before considering the means at our disposal for controlling the text when it was, so to speak, in a less settled condition.
An examination of the extant MSS. of the Hebrew Old Testament reveals two facts which at first sight are somewhat remarkable. The first is that the oldest dated MS., the Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus, only goes back to the year A.D. 916, though it is probable that one or two MSS. Massoretic text. belong to the 9th century. The second fact is that all our Hebrew MSS. represent one and the same text, viz. the Massoretic. This text was the work of a special gild of trained scholars called Massoretes (בעלי המסרת) or “masters of tradition” (מסורה or less correctly מסרת), whose aim was not only to preserve and transmit the consonantal text which had been handed down to them, but also to ensure its proper pronunciation. To this end they provided the text with a complete system of vowel points and accents. Their labours further included the compilation of a number of notes, to which the term Massorah is now usually applied. These notes for the most part constitute a sort of index of the peculiarities of the text, and possess but little general interest. More important are those passages in which the Massoretes have definitely adopted a variation from the consonantal text. In these cases the vowel points attached to the written word (Kěthībh) belong to the word which is to be substituted for it, the latter being placed in the margin with the initial letter of Qěrē (= to be read) prefixed to it. Many even of these readings merely relate to variations of spelling, pronunciation or grammatical forms; others substitute a more decent expression for the coarser phrase of the text, but in some instances the suggested reading really affects the sense of the passage. These last are to be regarded either as old textual variants, or, more probably, as emendations corresponding to the errata or corrigenda of a modern printed book. They do not point to any critical editing of the text; for the aim of the Massoretes was essentially conservative. Their object was not to create a new text, but rather to ensure the accurate transmission of the traditional text which they themselves had received. Their work may be said to culminate in the vocalized text which resulted from the labours of Rabbi Aaron ben Asher in the 10th century. But the writings of Jerome in the 4th, and of Origen in the 3rd century both testify to a Hebrew text practically identical with that of the Massoretes. Similar evidence is furnished by the Mishna and the Gemara, the Targums, and lastly by the Greek version of Aquila, which dates from the first half of the 2nd century A.D. Hence it is hardly doubtful that the form in which we now possess the Hebrew text was already fixed by the beginning of the 2nd century. On the other hand, evidence such as that of the Book of Jubilees shows that the form of the text still fluctuated considerably as late as the 1st century A.D., so that we are forced to place the fixing of the text some time between the fall of Jerusalem and the production of Aquila’s version. Nor is the occasion far to seek. After the fall of Jerusalem the new system of biblical exegesis founded by Rabbi Hillel reached its climax at Jamnia under the famous Rabbi Aqiba (d. c. 132). The latter’s system of interpretation was based upon an extremely literal treatment of the text, according to which the smallest words or particles, and sometimes even the letters of scripture, were invested with divine authority. The inevitable result of such a system must have been the fixing of an officially recognized text, which could scarcely have differed materially from that which was finally adopted by the Massoretes. That the standard edition was not the result of the critical investigation of existing materials may be assumed with some certainty. Indeed, it is probable, as has been suggested, that the manuscript which was adopted as the standard text was an old and well-written copy, possibly one of those which were preserved in the Court of the Temple.
But if the evidence available points to the time of Hadrian as the period at which the Hebrew text assumed its present form, it is even more certain that prior to that date the various MSS. of the Old Testament differed very materially from one another. Sufficient proof of this statement is furnished by the Samaritan Pentateuch and the versions, more especially the Septuagint. Indications also are not wanting in the Hebrew text itself to show that in earlier times the text was treated with considerable freedom. Thus, according to Jewish tradition, there are eighteen passages in which the older scribes deliberately altered the text on the ground that the language employed was either irreverent or liable to misconception. Of a similar nature are the changes introduced into proper names, e.g. the substitution of bosheth (= shame) for ba’al in Ishbosheth (2 Sam. ii. 8) and Mephibosheth (2 Sam. ix. 6; cf. the older forms Eshbaal and Meribaal, 1 Chron. viii. 34, 35); the use of the verb “to bless” (ברך) in the sense of cursing (1 Kings xxi. 10, 13; Job i. 5, 11, ii. 5, 9; Ps. x. 3); and the insertion of “the enemies of” in 1 Sam. xxv. 22, 2 Sam. xii. 14. These intentional alterations, however, only affect a very limited portion of the text, and, though it is possible that other changes were introduced at different times, it is very unlikely that they were either more extensive in range or more important in character. At the same time it is clear both from internal and external evidence that the archetype from which our MSS. are descended was far from being a perfect representative of the original text. For a comparison of the different parallel passages which occur in the Old Testament (e.g. 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles; 2 Kings xviii. 13-xx. 19 and Isaiah xxxvi.-xxxix; 2 Sam. xxii. and Ps. xviii.; Ps. xiv. and liii., &c.) reveals many variations which are obviously due to textual corruption, while there are many passages which in their present form are either ungrammatical, or inconsistent with the context or with other passages. Externally also the ancient versions, especially the Septuagint, frequently exhibit variations from the Hebrew which are not only intrinsically more probable, but often explain the difficulties presented by the Massoretic text. Our estimate of the value of these variant readings, moreover, is considerably heightened when we consider that the MSS. on which the versions are based are older by several centuries than those from which the Massoretic text was derived; hence the text which they presuppose has no slight claim to be regarded as an important witness for the original Hebrew. “But the use of the ancient versions” (to quote Prof. Driver) “is not always such a simple matter as might be inferred.... In the use of the ancient versions for the purposes of textual criticism there are three precautions which must always be observed; we must reasonably assure ourselves that we possess the version itself in its original integrity; we must eliminate such variants as have the appearance of originating merely with the translator; the remainder, which will be those that are due to a difference of text in the MS. (or MSS.) used by the translator, we must then compare carefully, in the light of the considerations just stated, with the existing Hebrew text, in order to determine on which side the superiority lies.”
3. Textual Criticism.
The aim of scientific Old Testament criticism is to obtain, through discrimination between truth and error, a full appreciation of the literature which constitutes the Old Testament, of the life out of which it grew, and the secret of Distinction between Textual and Higher Criticism. the influence which these have exerted and still exert. For such an appreciation many things are needed; and the branches of Old Testament criticism are correspondingly numerous. It is necessary in the first instance to detect the errors which have crept into the text in the course of its transmission, and to recover, so far as possible, the text in its original form; this is the task of Textual, or as it is sometimes called in contradistinction to another branch, Lower Criticism. It then becomes the task of critical exegesis to interpret the text thus recovered so as to bring out the meaning intended by the original authors. This Higher Criticism partakes of two characters, literary and historical. One branch seeks to determine the scope, purpose and character of the various books of the Old Testament, the times in and conditions under which they were written, whether they are severally the work of a single author or of several, whether they embody earlier sources and, if so, the character of these, and the conditions under which they have reached us, whether altered and, if altered, how; this is Literary Criticism. A further task is to estimate the value of this literature as evidence for the history of Israel, to determine, as far as possible, whether such parts of the literature as are contemporary with the time described present correct, or whether in any respect one-sided or biased or otherwise incorrect, descriptions; and again, how far the literature that relates the story of long past periods has drawn upon trustworthy records, and how far it is possible to extract historical truth from traditions (such as those of the Pentateuch) that present, owing to the gradual accretions and modifications of intervening generations, a composite picture of the period described, or from a work such as Chronicles, which narrates the past under the influence of the conception that the institutions and ideas of the present must have been established and current in the past; all this falls under Historical Criticism, which, on its constructive side, must avail itself of all available and well-sifted evidence, whether derived from the Old Testament or elsewhere, for its presentation of the history of Israel—its ultimate purpose. Finally, by comparing the results of this criticism as a whole, we have to determine, by observing its growth and comparing it with others, the essential character of the religion of Israel.
In brief, then, the criticism of the Old Testament seeks to discover what the words written actually meant to the writers, what the events in Hebrew history actually were, what the religion actually was; and hence its aim differs from the dogmatic or homiletic treatments of the Old Testament, which have sought to discover in Scripture a given body of dogma or incentives to a particular type of life or the like.
Biblical criticism, and in some respects more especially Old Testament criticism, is, in all its branches, very largely of modern growth. This has been due in part to the removal of conditions unfavourable to the critical study of the evidence that existed, in part to the discovery in recent times of fresh evidence. The unfavourable conditions and the critical efforts which were made in spite of them can only be briefly indicated.
For a long time Biblical study lacked the first essential of sound critical method, viz. a critical text of the literature. Jewish study was exclusively based on the official Hebrew text, which was fixed, probably in the 2nd century A.D., Growth of criticism. and thereafter scrupulously preserved. This text, however, had suffered certain now obvious corruptions, and, probably enough, more corruption than can now, or perhaps ever will be, detected with certainty. The position of Christian (and Jewish Alexandrian) scholars was considerably worse; for, with rare exceptions, down to the 5th century, and practically without exception between the 5th and 15th centuries, their study was exclusively based on translations. Beneath the ancient Greek version, the Septuagint, there certainly underlay an earlier form of the Hebrew text than that perpetuated by Jewish tradition, and if Christian scholars could have worked through the version to the underlying Hebrew text, they would often have come nearer to the original meaning than their Jewish contemporaries. But this they could not do; and since the version, owing to the limitations of the translators, departs widely from the sense of the original, Christian scholars were on the whole kept much farther from the original meaning than their Jewish contemporaries, who used the Hebrew text; and later, after Jewish grammatical and philological study had been stimulated by intercourse with the Arabs, the relative disadvantages under which Christian scholarship laboured increased. Still there are not lacking in the early centuries A.D. important, if limited and imperfect, efforts in textual criticism. Origen, in his Hexapla, placed side by side the Hebrew text, the Septuagint, and certain later Greek versions, and drew attention to the variations: he thus brought together for comparison, an indispensable preliminary to criticism, the chief existing evidence to the text of the Old Testament. Unfortunately this great work proved too voluminous to be preserved entire; and in the form in which it was fragmentarily preserved, it even largely enhanced the critical task of later centuries. Jerome, perceiving the unsatisfactory position of Latin-speaking Christian scholars who studied the Old Testament at a double remove from the original—in Latin versions of the Greek—made a fresh Latin translation direct from the Hebrew text then received among the Jews. It is only in accordance with what constantly recurs in the history of Biblical criticism that this effort to approximate to the truth met at first with considerable opposition, and was for a time regarded even by Augustine as dangerous. Subsequently, however, this version of Jerome (the Vulgate) became the basis of Western Biblical scholarship. Henceforward the Western Church suffered both from the corruptions in the official Hebrew text and also from the fact that it worked from a version and not from the original, for a knowledge of Hebrew was rare indeed among Christian scholars between the time of Jerome and the 16th century.
But if the use of versions, or of an uncritical text of the original, was one condition unfavourable to criticism, another that was not less serious was the dominance over both Jews and Christians of unsound methods of interpretation—legal or dogmatic or allegorical. The influence of these can be traced as early as the Greek version (3rd century B.C. and later); allegorical interpretation is conspicuous in the Alexandrian Jewish scholar Philo (q.v.); it may be seen in many New Testament interpretations of the Old Testament (e.g. Gal. iii. 16, iv. 21-31), found a classical exponent in Origen, and, in spite of the opposition of the school of Antioch, pre-eminently of Theodore (d. A.D. 428), maintained its power virtually unbroken down to the Reformation. It is true that even by the most thorough-going allegorists the literal sense of Scripture was not openly and entirely disregarded; but the very fact that the study of Hebrew was never more than exceptional, and so early ceased to be cultivated at all, is eloquent of indifference to the original literal sense, and the very principle of the many meanings inherent in the sacred writings was hostile to sound interpretation; greater importance was attached to the “deeper” or “hidden” senses, i.e. to the various unreal interpretations, and when the literal sense conflicted with the dogmas or tradition of the Church its validity was wholly denied. The extraordinary ambiguity and uncertainty which allegorical interpretation tacitly ascribed to Scripture, and the ease with which heretical as well as orthodox teaching could be represented as “hidden” under the literal sense, was early perceived, but instead of this leading to any real check on even wild subjectivity in interpretation and insistence on reaching the literal sense, it created an ominous principle that maintained much of its influence long after the supremacy of allegorism was overthrown. This is the principle that all interpretation of Scripture must be according to the Regula fidei—that all interpretation which makes Scripture contradict or offend the traditions of the Church is wrong.
The spirit and the age of humanism and the Reformation effected and witnessed important developments in the study of the Old Testament. It was still long before any considerable results were achieved; but in various ways the dogmatic and traditional treatment of Scripture was undermined; the way was opened for a more real and historical method. It must suffice to refer briefly to two points.
The fundamental principles of the Textual Criticism of the Old Testament are the same as those which apply to any other ancient text and need not be described here (see the article Textual Criticism). There are also, however, Conditions of Textual Criticism in the Bible. certain conditions peculiar to the text of the Old Testament. The significance of these and the extent to which they must govern the application of the general principles have even yet scarcely obtained full and general recognition. These, then, must be briefly described.
The earliest Hebrew MSS. of the Old Testament date from not earlier than the 9th century A.D., or nearly one thousand years after the latest parts of the Old Testament were written. These MSS., and the Hebrew Bibles as usually printed, contain in reality two perfectly distinct texts—the work of two different ages separated from one another by centuries: the one is a text of the Old Testament itself, the other a text of a later Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. The text of the Old Testament consists of consonants only, for the alphabet of the ancient Hebrews, like that of their Moabite, Aramaean and Phoenician neighbours, contained no vowels; the text of the interpretation consists of vowels and accents only—for vowel signs and accents had been invented by Jewish scholars between the 5th and 9th centuries A.D.; the text of the Old Testament is complete in itself and intelligible, though ambiguous; but the text of the interpretation read by itself is unintelligible, and only becomes intelligible when read with the consonants (under, over, or in which they are inserted) of the text of the Old Testament. But the fact that the later text makes use of the earlier to make itself intelligible in no way destroys the fact that it is as entirely distinct a work from the earlier as is any commentary distinct from the work on which it comments. The first task of Old Testament textual criticism after the Reformation was to prove the independence of these two texts, to gain general recognition of the fact that vowels and accents formed no part of the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The conflict that arose over this question in the Christian Church was prolonged and bitter—in part because it unfortunately became inflamed by the contending interests of Roman Catholic and Protestant. The coeval origin of consonants and vowels had indeed been questioned or denied by the earliest reformers (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin), but later, in the period of Protestant scholasticism and under the influence of one school of Jewish Rabbis, Protestant scholars in particular, and especially those of the Swiss school, notably the Buxtorfs, had committed themselves to the view that the vowels formed an integral and original part of the text of the Old Testament; and this they maintained with all the more fervency because the ambiguity of the consonants without the vowels was a troublesome fact in the way of the extreme Protestant doctrine of the inspiration, verbal infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture, while it was by no means unwelcome to Catholic theologians with their doctrine of the need for an authoritative interpretation. Still in the end it was due in large measure to the learning and argumentative power devoted to this subject by the French Protestant scholar, Louis Capell, and, amongst others, by the English Protestant scholar, Brian Walton, that by the end of the 17th century this particular controversy was practically at an end; criticism had triumphed, and the later origin of the vowels was admitted. Yet, as often happens, the influence of tradition lingered long after it had been proved to be false; thus the R.V., instead of being an independent translation of the Hebrew text, is intended (with rare exceptions, as e.g. in Is. lix. 19, where R.V. translates the Hebrew text and R.V. margin the Jewish interpretation) to be merely a translation of the Jewish interpretation; and to the present day it is usual, though obviously uncritical and wrong, to describe perfectly legitimate translations of the received consonantal text, if they happen to presuppose other vowels than those provided by Jewish tradition, as based on emendation; even in the English edition of Haupt’s Sacred Books of the Old Testament (see below) the possibility of this unfortunate misunderstanding is not altogether removed.
But the original text of the Old Testament long before it was combined with the text of the Jewish or Massoretic interpretation had already undergone a somewhat similar change, the extent of which was indeed far less, but also less clearly discoverable. This change consisted in the insertion into the original text of certain consonants which had come to be also used to express vowel sounds: e.g. the Hebrew consonant corresponding to w also expressed the vowel o or u, the consonant h the vowel a, and so forth. For reasons suggested partly by the study of Semitic inscriptions, partly by comparison of passages occurring twice within the Old Testament, and partly by a comparison of the Hebrew text with the Septuagint, it is clear that the authors of the Old Testament (or at least most of them) themselves made some use of these vowel consonants, but that in a great number of cases the vowel consonants that stand in our present text were inserted by transcribers and editors of the texts. Again, and for similar reasons, it is probable that in many cases, if not in all, the original texts were written without any clear division of the consonants into words. In view of all this, the first requisite for a critical treatment of the text of the Old Testament is to consider the consonants by themselves, to treat every vowel-consonant as possibly not original, and the existing divisions of the text into words as original only in those cases where they yield a sense better than any other possible division (or, at least, as good). Certainly all this brings us face to face with much ambiguity and demands increased skill in interpretation, but anything short of it falls short also of strict critical method. A perception of this has only been gradually reached, and is even now none too general.
Apart from these changes in the history of the text, it has, like all ancient texts, suffered from accidents of transmission, from the unintentional mistakes of copyists. This fact was, naturally enough and under the same dogmatic stress, denied by those scholars who maintained that the vowels were an integral part of the text. Here again we may single out Capellus as a pioneer in criticism, in his Critica sacra sive de variis quae in sacris V. T. libris occurrunt lectionibus, written in 1634, much studied in MS. by scholars before its publication in 1650, and unavailingly criticized by Buxtorf the younger in his Anticritica seu vindiciae veritatis hebraicae (1653). Capellus drew conclusions from such important facts as the occurrence of variations in the two Hebrew texts of passages found twice in the Old Testament itself, and the variations brought to light by a comparison of the Jewish and Samaritan texts of the Pentateuch, the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, the Hebrew text and New Testament quotations from the Old Testament.
In order that the principles already perceived by Capellus might be satisfactorily applied in establishing a critical text, many things were needed; for example, a complete collation of existing MSS. of the Jewish text and of the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch, the establishing of a critical text of the Septuagint, a careful study of the several versions directed to determining when real variants are implied and what they are. Some of this work has been accomplished: much of it remains to be done.
The Hebrew MSS. were collated by Kennicott and de Rossi at the close of the 18th century, with sufficient thoroughness to justify the important conclusion that all existing MSS. reproduce a single recension. The Samaritan MSS. are still very imperfectly collated; the same is true of the Syriac and other versions except the Septuagint. In regard to the Septuagint, though the work is by no means complete, much has been done. For collection of material the edition of Holmes and Parsons (Oxford, 1798-1827), with its magnificent critical apparatus, is pre-eminent; the preparation of a similar edition, on a rather smaller scale but embodying the results of fresh and more careful collation, was subsequently undertaken by Cambridge scholars. These editions furnish the material, but neither attempts the actual construction of a critical text of the version. Some important contributions towards a right critical method of using the material collected have been made—in particular by Lagarde, who has also opened up a valuable line of critical work, along which much remains to be done, by his restoration of the Lucianic recension, one of the three great recensions of the Greek text of the Old Testament which obtained currency at the close of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th centuries A.D.
More especially since the time of Capellus the value of the Septuagint for correcting the Hebrew text has been recognized; but it has often been used uncritically, and the correctness of the Hebrew text underlying it in comparison with the text of the Hebrew MSS., though still perhaps most generally underestimated, has certainly at times been exaggerated.
It has only been possible here to indicate in the briefest way what is involved in the collection and critical sifting of the extant evidence for the text of the Old Testament, how much of the work has been done and how much Results of Criticism. remains; and with equal brevity it must suffice to indicate the position which faces the textual critic when all that can be done in this way has been done. In so far as it is possible to recover the Hebrew text from which the Greek version was made, it is possible to recover a form of the Hebrew text current about 280 B.C. in the case of the Pentateuch, some time before 100 B.C. in the case of most of the rest of the Old Testament. By comparison of the Hebrew MSS. it is not difficult to recover the recension which with few and unimportant variants they have perpetuated, and which may safely be regarded as differing but slightly from the text current and officially established before the end of the 2nd century A.D. By a comparison of these two lines of evidence we can approximate to a text current about 300 B.C. or later; but for any errors which had entered into the common source of these two forms of the text we possess no documentary means of detection whatsoever. The case then stands thus. Except by the obviously absurd assumption of the infallibility of copyists for the centuries before c. 300 B.C., we cannot escape the conclusion that errors lurk even where no variants now exist, and that such errors can be corrected, if at all, only by conjectural emendation. The dangers of conjectural emendation are well known and apparent; large numbers of such emendations have been ill-advised; but in the case of many passages the only alternative for the textual critic who is at once competent and honest is to offer such emendations or to indicate that such passages are corrupt and the means of restoring them lacking.
Conjectural emendations were offered by Capellus in the 17th, and by scholars such as C. F. Houbigant, Archbishop Seeker, Bishop Lowth and J. D. Michaelis in the 18th century. Some of these have approved themselves to successive generations of scholars, who have also added largely to the store of such suggestions; conjectural emendation has been carried furthest by upholders of particular metrical theories (such as Bickell and Duhm) which do not accommodate themselves well to the existing text, and by T. K. Cheyne (in Critica Biblica, 1903), whose restorations resting on a dubious theory of Hebrew history have met with little approval, though his negative criticism of the text is often keen and suggestive.
A model of the application of the various resources of Old Testament textual criticism to the restoration of the text is C. H. Cornill’s Das Buch des Propheten Ezechiel (1886): outstanding examples of important systematic critical notes are J. Wellhausen’s Der Text der Bücher Samuelis (1871) and S. R. Driver’s Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel (1890). Haupt’s Sacred Books of the Old Testament, edited by various scholars, was designed to present, when complete, a critical text of the entire Old Testament with critical notes. The results of textual criticism, including a considerable number of conjectural emendations, are succinctly presented in Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica (1906); but the text here printed is the ordinary Massoretic (vocalized) text. The valuable editions of the Old Testament by Baer and Delitzsch, and by Ginsburg, contain critical texts of the Jewish interpretation of Scripture, and therefore necessarily uncritical texts of the Hebrew Old Testament itself: it lies entirely outside their scope to give or even to consider the evidence which exists for correcting the obvious errors in the text of the Old Testament as received and perpetuated by the Jewish interpreters. See also the authorities mentioned in the following section. (G. B. G.*)
4. Higher Criticism.
We now pass on to consider the growth of literary and historic criticism, which constitute the Higher Criticism as already explained. Down to the Reformation conditions were unfavourable to such criticism; the prevailing dogmatic use of Scripture gave no occasion for inquiry into the human origins or into the real purport and character of the several books. Nevertheless we find some sporadic and tentative critical efforts or questions. The most remarkable of these was made outside the Church—a significant indication of the adverse effect of the conditions within; the Neo-platonist philosopher Porphyry in the 3rd century A.D., untrammelled by church tradition and methods, anticipated one of the clearest and most important conclusions of modern criticism: he detected the incorrectness of the traditional ascription of Daniel to the Jewish captivity in Babylon and discerned that the real period of its composition was that of Antiochus Epiphanes, four centuries later. In the mind even of Augustine (Locutio in Jos. vi. 25) questions were raised by the occurrence of the formula “until this day” in Jos. iv. 9, but were stilled by a rather clever though wrong use of Jos. vi. 25; Abelard (Heloissae Problema, xli.) considers the problem whether the narrative of Moses’s death in Deut. contains a prophecy by Moses or is the work of another and later writer, while the Jewish scholar Ibn Ezra (Abenezra), in a cryptic note on Deut. i. 1, which has been often quoted of late years, gathers together several indications that point, as he appears to perceive, to the post-Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. Even rarer than these rare perceptions of the evidence of the quasi-historical books to their origin are such half-perceptions of the literary origin of the prophetical books as is betrayed by Ibn Ezra, who appears to question the Isaianic authorship of Is. xl.-lxvi., and by Photius, patriarch of Constantinople in the 9th century, who, according to Diestel (Gesch. des A. T., 169), raises the question why the sixth chapter of Isaiah, containing the inaugural vision, does not stand at the beginning of the book.
Even after the Renaissance and the Reformation tradition continued influential. For though the Reformers were critical of the authority of ecclesiastical tradition in the matter of the interpretation and use of Scripture, they were not immediately The Reformers. interested in literary and historical criticism, nor concerned to challenge the whole body of traditional lore on these matters. At the same time we can see from Luther’s attitude how the doctrine of the Reformers (unlike that of the Protestant scholastics who came later) admitted considerable freedom, in particular with reference to the extent of the canon, but also to several questions of higher criticism. Thus it is to Luther a matter of indifference whether or not Moses wrote the Pentateuch; the books of Chronicles he definitely pronounces less credible than those of Kings, and he considers that the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea probably owe their present form to later hands. Carlstadt again definitely denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch on the ground that Moses could not have written the account of his own death and yet that Deut. xxxiv. cannot be separated from the rest of the Pentateuch. The later scholastic Protestant doctrine of verbal infallibility necessarily encouraged critical reaction and proved a widely extended retarding force far down into the 19th century. Nevertheless criticism advanced by slow degrees among individuals, now in the Roman Church, now in the number of those who sat loosely to the restrictions of either Roman or Protestant authority, and now among Protestant scholars and theologians.
It would be impossible to refer here even briefly to all these, and it may be more useful to select for somewhat full description, as showing what could be achieved by, and what limitations beset, even a critical spirit in the 17th Hobbes. century, the survey of the origin of the Old Testament given by one such individual—Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan (published 1651) c. xxxiii. As far as possible this survey shall be cited verbatim:—
Except in strangely making Zephaniah contemporary with Isaiah, Hobbes’ conclusions, in so far as they differ from the traditional views, have been confirmed by the more thorough criticism of subsequent scholars. But apart from the special conclusions, the opening and closing considerations contain clear and important statements which still hold good. No fresh discoveries since the time of Hobbes have furnished any “testimony of other history” to the origin of the books of the Old Testament: this must still be determined by the statements and internal evidence of the Old Testament itself, and a deeper criticism has given to the final consideration that the Old Testament received its present form after the Exile a far greater significance than Hobbes perhaps guessed.
But the limitations of Hobbes’ literary criticism judged from our present standpoint are great. The considerations from which he acutely and accurately draws far-reaching and important conclusions might be suggested by a very superficial examination of the literature; they involve, for example, no special philological knowledge. The effect of a deeper criticism has been (a) to give a more powerful support to some of Hobbes’ conclusions; (b) to show that works (e.g. Ecclesiastes) whose traditional antiquity is left unquestioned by him are in reality of far more recent origin; (c) to eliminate the earlier sources or elements in the writings which Hobbes was content to date mainly or as a whole by their latest elements (e.g. Pentateuch, Judges, Kings), and thus to give to these earlier sources an historical value higher than that which would be safely attributed to them as indistinguishable parts of a late compilation.
Hobbes argues in the case of the Pentateuch that two authors are distinguishable—Moses and a much later compiler and editor. Spinoza, whose conclusions in his Tractatus theologicopoliticus (1671), c. viii. ix., had in general much in common with Hobbes, drew attention in particular to the confused mixture of law and narrative in the Pentateuch, the occurrence of duplicate narratives and chronological incongruities. Father Simon in his Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (1682) also argues that the Pentateuch is the work of more than one author, and makes an important advance towards a systematic analysis of the separate elements by observing that the style varies, being sometimes very curt and sometimes very copious “although the variety of the matter does not require it.” But none of these makes any attempt to carry through a continuous analysis.
The first attempt of this kind is that of a French Catholic physician, Jean Astruc. In a work published anonymously in 1753 under the title of Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux dont il paroît que Moyse s’est servi pour composer le livre de la Genèse, he argued that in Genesis and Astruc. Ex. i. ii. Moses had used different documents, and that of these the two chief were distinguished by their use of different divine names—Elohim and Yahweh; by the use of this clue he gave a detailed analysis of the passages belonging to the several documents. Astruc’s criteria were too slight to give to all the details of his analysis anything approaching a final analysis; but later criticism has shown that his criteria, so far as they went, were valid, and his results, broadly speaking, sound though incomplete: and, moreover, they have abundantly justified his really important fundamental theory that the documents used by the compiler of the Pentateuch have been incorporated so much as they lay before him that we can get behind the compiler to the earlier sources and thus push back the evidence of much of the Pentateuch beyond the date of its compilation to the earlier date of the sources. In identifying the compiler with Moses, Astruc failed to profit from some of his predecessors: and the fact that he held to the traditional (Mosaic) origin of the Pentateuch may have prevented him from seeing the similar facts which would have led him to continue his analysis into the remaining books of the Pentateuch.
For subsequent developments, and the fruitful results of documentary analysis as applied to the Pentateuch and other composite books, which cannot be dealt with in any detail here, reference must be made to the special articles on the books of the Old Testament.
The year of the publication of Astruc’s book saw also the publication of Bishop Lowth’s De sacra poesi Hebraeorum; later Lowth published a new translation of Isaiah with notes (1778). Lowth’s contribution to a more critical Lowth. appreciation of the Old Testament lies in his perception of the nature and significance of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, in his discernment of the extent to which the prophetical books are poetical in form, and in his treatment of the Old Testament as the expression of the thought and emotions of a people—in a word, as literature. Both Lowth’s works were translated and became influential in Germany.
In spite of these earlier achievements, it is J. G. Eichhorn who has, not without reason, been termed the “founder of modern Old Testament criticism.” Certainly the publication of his Einleitung (Introduction to the Old Testament), Eichhorn. in 1780-1783, is a landmark in the history of Old Testament criticism. An intimate friend of Herder, himself keenly interested in literature, he naturally enough treats the Old Testament as literature—like Lowth, but more thoroughly; and, as an Oriental scholar, he treats it as an Oriental literature. In both respects he was to be widely followed. His Introduction, consisting of three closely packed volumes dealing with textual as well as literary criticism, is the first comprehensive treatment of the entire Old Testament as literature. Much of the voluminous detailed work in this and other works is naturally enough provisional, but in the Introduction there emerge most of the broad conclusions of literary criticism (sometimes incomplete) which, after more than a century of keen examination by scholars unwilling to admit them, have passed by more or less general consent into the number of historical certainties or high probabilities. With his wide linguistic knowledge Eichhorn perceived that the language alone (though he also adduces other considerations) betrays the late origin of Ecclesiastes, which he places in the Persian Period (538-332 B.C.): Canticles, too, preserves linguistic features which are not of the Solomonic age. He analyses significant stylistic peculiarities such as occur, e.g., in Isaiah xxiv.-xxvii. For various reasons (here following Koppe, who just previously in additions to his translation of Lowth’s Isaiah had shown himself the pioneer of the higher criticism of the book of Isaiah) he argues that “in our Isaiah are many oracles not the work of this prophet.” In other directions the still powerful influence of tradition affects Eichhorn. He maintains the exilic origin of parts of Daniel, though he is convinced (here again in part by language) of the later origin of other parts. His Pentateuchal criticism is limited by the tradition of Mosaic authorship: but even within these limits he achieves much. He carries through, as Astruc had done, the analysis of Genesis into (primarily) two documents; he draws the distinction between the Priests’ Code, of the middle books of the Pentateuch, and Deuteronomy, the people’s law book; and admits that even the books that follow Genesis consist of different documents, many incomplete and fragmentary (whence the theory became known as the “Fragment-hypothesis”), but all the work of Moses and some of his contemporaries.
Other literary critics of the same period or a little later are Alex. Geddes, a Scottish Catholic priest, who projected, and in part carried out (1792-1800), a critically annotated new translation of the Old Testament, and argued therein that the Pentateuch ultimately rests on a variety of sources partly written, partly oral, but was compiled in Canaan probably in the reign of Solomon; K. D. Ilgen, the discoverer (1798) that there were two distinct documents in Genesis using the divine name Elohim, and consequently that there were three main sources in the books, not two, as Astruc and Eichhorn had conjectured; and J. S. Vater, the elaborator of the “Fragment-hypothesis.”
But the next distinct stage is reached when we come to De Wette, whose contributions to Biblical learning were many and varied, but who was pre-eminent in historical criticism. He carried criticism beyond literary analysis and De Wette. literary appreciation to the task of determining the worth of the documents as records, the validity of the evidence. His peculiar qualities were conspicuous in his early and exceedingly influential work—the Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament (1806-1807). In the introduction to vol. ii. he carefully analyses the principles of sound historical method and the essentials of a trustworthy historical record. These principles he applied to the Old Testament, firstly to the Books of Chronicles, and then to the Pentateuch. The untrustworthiness of Chronicles—briefly admitted by Luther—he proved in detail, and so cleared the way for that truer view of the history and religion of Israel which the treatment of Chronicles as a trustworthy record of the past hopelessly obscured. In the criticism of the Pentateuch his most influential and enduring contributions to criticism are his proof that Deuteronomy is a work of the 7th century B.C., and his insistence that the theory of the Mosaic origin of all the institutions described in the Pentateuch is incompatible with the history of Israel as described in the historical books, Judges, Samuel and Kings.
Strong in historical criticism, De Wette was weak in historical construction. But what he failed to give, Ewald supplied, and if more of De Wette’s than of Ewald’s work still stands to-day, that is but an illustration of the melancholy Ewald. fact that in history negative criticism is surer than positive construction. But Ewald’s History of the People of Israel (1843-1859) was the first great attempt to synthesize the results of criticism and to present the history of Israel as a great reality of the past. By the force of his wide learning and even more of his personality, Ewald exercised for long an all-pervading and almost irresistible influence. He closes one epoch of Old Testament criticism; by his influence he retards the development of the next. Before passing to the new epoch it must suffice to make a simple reference to the philological work of Gesenius and Ewald, which assisted a sounder exegesis and so secured for later criticism a more stable basis.
The next stage brings us to the critical theories or conclusions which at first gradually and then rapidly, in spite of the keenest criticisms directed against them both by those who clung more or less completely to tradition and by the Vatke; Reuss. representatives of the earlier critical school, gained increasing acceptance, until to-day they dominate Old Testament study. The historico-critical starting-point of the movement was really furnished by De Wette: but it was Vatke who, in his Biblische Theologie wissenschaftlich dargestellt (1835), first brought out its essential character. The fundamental peculiarity of the movement lies in the fact that it is a criticism of what is supreme in Israel—its religion, and that it has rendered possible a true appreciation of this by showing that, like all living and life-giving systems of thought, belief and practice, the religion of Israel was subject to development. It seized on the prophetic element, and not the ceremonial, as containing what is essential and unique in the religion of Israel. In literary criticism its fundamental thesis, stated independently of Vatke and in the same year by George in Die älteren jüdischen Feste, and in a measure anticipated by Reuss, who in 1832 was maintaining in his academical lectures that the prophets were older than the Law and the Psalms more recent than both, is that the chronological order of the three main sources of the Hexateuch is (1) the prophetic narratives (JE), (2) Deuteronomy, (3) the Priestly Code (P), the last being post-exilic. This entirely reversed the prevailing view that P with its exact details and developed ceremonial and sacerdotal system was at once the earliest portion of the Pentateuch and the Grundschrift or foundation of the whole—a view that was maintained by Ewald and, though with very important modifications, to the last by A. Dillmann (d. 1894). Inherent in this view of religious development and the new critical position were far-reaching changes in the literary, historical and religious criticism of the Old Testament: these have been gradually rendered clear as the fundamental positions on which they rest have been secured by the manifold work of two generations of scholars.
Nearly a generation passed before Vatke’s point of view gained any considerable number of adherents. This is significant. In part it may fairly be attributed to the retarding influence of the school of Ewald, but in large part also Graf; Kuenen; Wellhausen; Colenso. to the fact that Vatke, a pupil of Hegel, had developed his theory on a priori grounds in accordance with the principles of Hegel’s philosophy of history. It was only after a fresh and keener observation of facts that the new theory made rapid progress. For that, when it came, much was due to the work of Graf (a pupil of Reuss, whose Geschichtliche Bücher des Alten Testaments appeared in 1866); to the Dutch scholar Kuenen, who, starting from the earlier criticism, came over to the new, made it the basis of his Religion of Israel (1869-1870), a masterly work and a model of sound method, and continued to support it by a long series of critical essays in the Theologisch Tijdschrift; and to Wellhausen, who displayed an unrivalled combination of grasp of details and power of historical construction: his Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels was published in 1878 and translated into English in 1885; the history itself, Israelitische u. jüdische Geschichte, followed twenty years later, after much further critical work had been done in the meantime. Not a little also was due to Colenso (The Pentateuch ... critically examined, pt. i., 1862), who, though he never entirely accepted the new position, contributed by his searching analysis of the unreality of P’s narrative to the formation (for example, in the mind of Kuenen) or ratification of the judgment on that work which is fundamental to the general theory.
This sketch of the critical movement has now been brought down to the point at which the comprehensive conclusions which still dominate Old Testament study gained clear expression and were shown to be drawn from the observation of a large body of facts. It does not fall within the scope of this article to examine the validity of these conclusions, nor even to notice the various subsidiary or consequential conclusions. Nor again is it possible to survey the more special developments of literary criticism which have later emerged, amongst which one of the most important has been the radical examination of the prophetic writings introduced and developed by (amongst others) Stade, Wellhausen, Duhm, Cheyne, Marti. The starting-point of this newer criticism of the prophets is the clearer practical recognition of the fact that all pre-exilic prophecy has come down to us in the works of post-exilic editors, and that for the old statement of the problem of the prophetic books—What prophecies or elements in Isaiah, Jeremiah and the rest are later than these prophets?—is to be substituted the new critical question—From these post-exilic collections how are the pre-exilic elements to be extracted? Bound up with this question of literary criticism is the very important question of the origin and development of the Messianic idea.
But two things, the extent of the influence of criticism and the relation of archaeology and criticism, yet remain for consideration, in the course of which it will be possible just to indicate some other problems awaiting solution.
It is one thing for scholars to reach conclusions: it is another for these conclusions to exercise a wide influence in the Churches and over general culture. In the 16th century we find obiter dicta of the Reformers challenging traditional opinions on the Influence of Criticism. origin and character of the Old Testament; in the 17th century, among certain isolated scholars, elementary critical surveys of the whole field, which exercised, however, no extensive influence. Nor was it till late in the 18th century that criticism seriously challenged the dominance of the Protestant scholastic treatment of the Old Testament on the one hand, and the rough and ready, uncritical explanations or depreciations of the Rationalists on the other. But Eichhorn’s Introduction appealed to more than technical scholars: its influence was great, and from that time forward criticism gradually or even rapidly extended its sway in Germany. Very different was the case in England; after Geddes and Lowth, at the close of the 18th, till far down into the 19th century, the attitude even of scholars (with rare exceptions) was hostile to critical developments, and no independent critical work was done. Pusey indeed studied under Eichhorn, and in his Historical Enquiry into the probable causes of the Rationalist Character lately predominant in German Theology (1828-1830) speaks sympathetically of the attitude of the Reformers on the question of Scripture and in condemnation of the later Protestant scholastic doctrine; but even in this book he shows no receptivity for any of the actual critical conclusions of Eichhorn and his successors, and subsequently threw the weight of his learning against critical conclusions—notably in his Commentary on Daniel (1864). Dean Stanley owed something to Ewald and spoke warmly of him, but the Preface to the History of the Jewish Church in which he does so bears eloquent testimony to the general attitude towards Old Testament criticism in 1862, of which we have further proof in the almost unanimous disapprobation and far-spread horror with which Colenso’s Pentateuch, pt. i., was met on its publication in the same year.
From 1869 T. K. Cheyne worked indefatigably as a resourceful pioneer, but for many years, in view of the prevailing temper, with “extreme self-suppression” and “willingness to concede to tradition all that could with any plausibility be conceded.” (Cheyne, Origin of the Psalter, p. 15); more especially is his influence observable after 1890, when he published his Bampton Lectures, the Origin of the Psalter, a work of vast learning and keen penetration, without restraint on the freedom of his judgment—always stimulating to students and fellow-workers, though by no means always carrying large numbers with him. From about 1880 the prevailing temper had changed; within a decade of this date the change had become great; since then the influence of Old Testament criticism has grown with increased acceleration. The change in the former period with regard to a single point, which is however typical of many, is briefly summed up by Dr Cheyne: “In 1880 it was still a heresy to accept with all its consequences the plurality of authorship of the Book of Isaiah; in 1890 to a growing school of church-students this has become an indubitable fact” (Origin of the Psalter, xv.). By 1906 this plurality of authorship had become almost a commonplace of the market. Many, particularly of late, have contributed to the wide distribution, if not of the critical spirit itself, yet at least of a knowledge of its conclusions. To two only of the most influential is it possible to make more definite reference—to W. Robertson Smith and S. R. Driver. From 1875 onwards Smith contributed to the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica a long series of important articles, which, together with the articles of Cheyne, Wellhausen and others, made that work an important factor in the change which was to pass over English thought in regard to the Bible; in 1878, by his pleadings in the trial for heresy brought against him on the ground of these articles, he turned a personal defeat in the immediate issue into a notable victory for the cause which led to his condemnation; and subsequently (in 1880), in two series of lectures, afterwards published and widely read, he gave a brilliant, and, as it proved, to a rapidly increasing number a convincing exposition of the criticism of the literature, history and religion of Israel, which was already represented in Germany by Wellhausen and in Holland by Kuenen. In 1891 Dr Driver published his Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (6th ed., 1897); less popular in form than Smith’s lectures, it was a more systematic and comprehensive survey of the whole field of the literary criticism of the Old Testament. The position of the author as regius professor of Hebrew at Oxford and canon of Christ Church in succession to Pusey, and his well-established reputation as a profound Hebrew scholar, commanded wide attention; the qualities of the book itself—its marked sobriety, its careful discrimination between the differing degrees of probability attaching to various conclusions and suggestions, and in general its soundness of method—rapidly extended the understanding of what Old Testament criticism is and commanded acceptance of the well-established conclusions.
No less rapid has been the change in America during the same period, nor less numerous the scholars well equipped to pursue the detailed investigation involved in critical study or those who have shown ability in popular presentations of the critical standpoint. Pre-eminent amongst these is C. A. Briggs, whose influence has been due in part to a large and varied body of work (Biblical Study, 1883, and many articles and volumes since) and in part to his organization of united critical, international and interconfessional labour, the chief fruits of which have been the Hebrew Lexicon (based on Gesenius, and edited by F. Brown, one of the most eminent of American scholars, S. R. Driver and himself), and the International Critical Commentary. Other important works in which English and American scholars have co-operated are the Encyclopaedia Biblica (1899-1903) and Hastings’ Bible Dictionary (1898-1904)—the latter less radical, but yet on the whole based on acceptance of the fundamental positions of Vatke, Graf, Wellhausen. Between either of these and Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (1863) yawns a great gulf. Space forbids any attempt to sketch here the special growth of criticism in other countries, such as France, where the brilliant genius of Renan was in part devoted to the Old Testament, or within the Roman Catholic Church, which possesses in Père Lagrange, for example, a deservedly influential critical scholar, and in the Revue Biblique an organ which devotes much attention to the critical study of the Old Testament.
Rapid and extensive as has been the spread of critical methods, there have not been lacking anticritica. Many of these have been not only apologetic, but unscholarly; that is, however, not the case with all. In Dr James Orr’s learned work, The Problem of the Old Testament considered with reference to Recent Criticism (1906), the author’s chief aim is to prove insecure the fundamental positions of the now dominant school of criticism.
In view of extensive misconception occasioned by many of these anticritica, it needs to be pointed out that terms like “criticism,” “higher criticism,” “critics” are often loosely used: criticism is a method, its results are many. Again, many of the results or conclusions of criticism are mutually independent, while others are interrelated and depend for their validity on the validity of others. For example, among the generally or largely accepted critical conclusions are these: (1) Moses is not the author of the whole Pentateuch; (2) Isaiah is not the author of Is. xl.-lxvi.; (3) the book of Daniel was written in the 2nd century B.C.; (4) the Priestly Code is post-exilic; (5) most of the Psalms are post-exilic. Now 1, 2, 3 are absolutely independent—if 1 were proved false, 2 and 3 would still stand; and so with 2 and 3; so also 2 and 3 could be proved false without in any way affecting the validity of 4. On the other hand, if 1 were disproved, 4 would immediately fall through, and the strength of 5 would be weakened (as it would also by the disproof of 2), because the argument for the date of many Psalms is derived from religious ideas and the significance of these varies greatly according as the Priestly Code is held to be early or late. In view of the number of critical conclusions and the mutual independence of many of them, “higher criticism” can only be overthrown by proving the application of criticism to the Old Testament to be in itself unlawful, or else by proving the falseness or inconclusiveness of all its mutually independent judgments one by one. On examination, the authors of anticritica are generally found to disown, tacitly or openly, the first of these alternatives; for example, Prof. Sayce, who frequently takes the field against the “higher criticism,” and denies, without, however, disproving, the validity of the literary analysis of the Hexateuch, nevertheless himself asserts that “no one can study the Pentateuch ... without perceiving that it is a compilation, and that its author, or authors, has made use of a large variety of older materials,” and that “it has probably received its final shape at the hands of Ezra” (Early History of the Hebrews, 129 and 134). This is significant enough; Prof. Sayce, the most brilliant and distinguished of the “anti-critics,” does not really reoccupy the position of the “able and pious men” of the mid-19th century, to whom “even to speak of any portion of the Bible as a history” was “an outrage upon religion” (Stanley, Jewish Church, Preface); these may still have pious, but they have no longer scholarly successors. Prof. Sayce travels farther back, it is true, but on critical lines: he abandons the Pentateuchal criticism of the 20th century, to reoccupy the critical position of Hobbes, Spinoza and Simon in the 17th century—whether reasonably or not must here be left an open question.
Briefly, in conclusion, it remains to consider the relation of Archaeology to Criticism, partly because it is frequently asserted in the loose language just discussed that Archaeology has overthrown Criticism, or in Archeology and Criticism. particular the “higher criticism,” and partly because Archaeology has stimulated and forced to the front certain important critical questions.
More especially since the middle of the 19th century the decipherment of Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions and systematic excavation in Palestine and other parts of the East have supplied a multitude of new facts bearing more or less directly on the Old Testament. What has been the general effect of these new facts on traditional theories or critical conclusions?
(1) Literary Criticism.—No discovery has yielded any direct testimony as to the authorship of any book of the Bible, or as to the mode or date of its composition. Any documentary analysis of the Pentateuch may be right or wrong; but archaeology contributes nothing either one way or another as to the answer. On the other hand, archaeology has in some cases greatly strengthened the critical judgment that certain writings (e.g. Daniel, the story of Joseph in Genesis) are not contemporary with the events described.
(2) Historical Criticism.—Here the gain has been more direct; e.g. the Assyrian inscriptions have furnished independent evidence of the relations of certain Hebrew kings (Ahab, Jehu, Ahaz) with the Assyrians, and thus supported more or less completely the evidence of the Old Testament on these points: they have also served to clear up in part the confused chronology of the Hebrews as given in the books of Kings. But above all archaeology has immensely increased our knowledge of the nations among which Israel was placed, and of the political powers which from time to time held Palestine in subjection. In this way archaeology has greatly helped to bring the history of Israel into relation with the history of the ancient East, and in so doing has raised important questions as to the origin of Hebrew culture. For example, the recent discovery of the Code of Khammurabi, which contains some remarkable resemblances to the Pentateuchal codes, raises the question of the relation of Hebrew to Babylonian law. On the other hand, there are certain great historical questions which have been greatly affected by criticism, but on which archaeology has hitherto shed no light. For example, much as archaeology has increased our knowledge of the conditions obtaining in Palestine before the Hebrew invasion, it has so far contributed nothing to our knowledge of the Hebrew nation before that time beyond the statement in the now famous stele of Merenptah (Mineptah) (c. 1270 B.C.), discovered in 1896, “Ysirael is desolated, its seed is not,” and a few possible but vague and uncertain allusions to particular tribes. It has contributed nothing whatsoever to our knowledge of any Hebrew individual of this period, and consequently what elements of history underlie the stories in Genesis, in so far as they relate to the Hebrew patriarchs, must still be determined, if at all, by a critical study of the Old Testament. The story in Gen. xiv. is no exception to this statement: archaeology has made probable the historic reality of Chedorlaomer, which some critics had previously divined; it has not proved the historical reality of the patriarch Abraham or the part played by him in the story, which some critics, whether rightly or wrongly, had questioned. The Dutch scholar Kosters called in question the return of the Jews in the days of Cyrus; his view, adopted by many, has hardly obtained, as yet at all events, the weight of critical judgment: here again, unfortunately, archaeology at present is silent.
(3) Criticism of Religion.—Here, perhaps, archaeology has contributed most new material, with the result that religious terms, ideas, institutions, once supposed to be peculiar to Israel, are now seen to be common to them and other nations; in some cases, moreover, priority clearly does not lie with the Hebrews, as, for example, in the case of the materials (as distinct from the spirit in which they are worked up) of the stories of Creation and the Flood. Of late, too, it has been much argued, and often somewhat confidently maintained, that Hebrew monotheism is derivative from Babylonian monotheism.
This and similar questions, leading up to the ultimate and supreme question—Wherein does lie the uniqueness of Israel’s religion?—are among those which will require in the future renewed examination in the light of a critical study alike of the Old Testament and of all the relevant material furnished by archaeology. Archaeology has not yet found the key to every unopened door; but it has already done enough to justify the surmise that if criticism had not already disintegrated the traditional theories of the Old Testament, archaeology in the latter half of the 19th century would itself have initiated the process.
5. Old Testament Chronology.
A sense of the importance of a fixed standard of chronology was only acquired gradually in the history of the world. Nations in a primitive state of civilization were not, and are not, conscious of the need. When the need began to be felt events were probably at first dated by the regnal years of kings; the reigns of successive kings were then arranged in order, and grouped, if necessary, in dynasties, and thus a fixed standard was gradually constructed. Particular states also not unfrequently introduced fixed eras, which obtained a more or less extensive currency, as the era of the first Olympiad (776 B.C.), of the foundation of Rome (753 B.C.), and of the Seleucidae at Antioch (312 B.C.), which is followed by the Jewish author of the first book of Maccabees. Some of the earliest documents which we possess are dated by the year in which some noticeable event took place, as in contract-tablets of the age of Sargon of Agade (Akkad) (3800 B.C., or, according to other authorities, 2800 B.C.), “In the year in which Sargon conquered the land of Amurru [the Amorites]”; or, “In the year in which Samsu-ditana [c. 1950 B.C.] made the statue of Marduk”: Is. vi. 1 (“In the year of King Uzziah’s death”), xiv. 28, xx. 1, are examples of this method of dating found even in the Old Testament. In process of time, however, the custom of dating by the regnal year of the king became general. The Babylonians and Assyrians were probably the first to construct and employ a fixed chronological standard; and the numerous contract-tablets, and list of kings and yearly officials, discovered within recent years, afford striking evidence of the precision with which they noted chronological details. Biblical chronology is, unfortunately, in many respects uncertain. Prior to the establishment of the monarchy the conditions for securing an exact and consecutive chronology did not exist; the dates in the earlier period of the history, though apparently in many cases precise, being in fact added long after the events described, and often (as will appear below) resting upon an artificial basis, so that the precision is in reality illusory. And after the establishment of the monarchy, though the conditions for an accurate chronology now existed, errors by some means or other found their way into the figures; so that the dates, as we now have them, are in many cases at fault by as much as two to three decades of years. The exact dates of events in Hebrew history can be determined only when the figures given in the Old Testament, can be checked and, if necessary, corrected by the contemporary monuments of Assyria and Babylonia, or (as in the post-exilic period) by the knowledge which we independently possess of the chronology of the Persian kings. In the following parts of this article the chronological character of each successive period of the Old Testament history will be considered and explained as far as the limits of space at the writer’s disposal permit.
I. From the Creation of Man to the Exodus.—In the whole of this period the chronology, in so far as it consists of definite figures, depends upon that part of the Pentateuch which is called by critics the “Priestly Narrative.” The figures are in most, if not in all cases artificial, though the means now fail us of determining upon what principles they were calculated. It is also to be noted that in the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch, and in the LXX., the figures, especially in the period from the Creation to the birth of Abraham, differ considerably from those given in the Hebrew, yielding in Sam. a lower, but in the LXX. a much higher total. The following tables will make the details clear:—
(1) From the Creation of Man to the Flood (Gen. v. and vii. 11).
|Age of each at birth of next.|
| Adam (930)
Noah (950); age at Flood
Total from the Creation of
Man to the Flood
The figures in parentheses indicate the entire ages assigned to the several patriarchs; these are generally the same in the three texts. The Sam., however, it will be noticed, makes in three cases the father’s age at the birth of his eldest son less than it is in the Heb. text, while the LXX. makes it in several cases as much as 100 years higher, the general result of these differences being that the total in the Sam. is 349 years less than in the Heb., while in the LXX. it is 606 years more. The names, it need hardly be remarked, belong to the prehistoric period, and equally with the figures are destitute of historical value.
(2) From the Flood to the Call of Abraham (Gen. xi.).
|Age of each at birth of next.|
| Arphaxad (438)
Cainan (460) [cf. Luke iii. 27]
Abraham (175); age at Call
(Gen. xii. 4)
Total from the Flood to
the Call of Abraham.
The variations are analogous to those under (1), except that here the birth-years of the patriarchs in both Sam. and LXX. differ more consistently in one direction, being, viz., almost uniformly higher by 100 years. It has been much debated, in both cases, which of the three texts preserves the original figures. In (2) it is generally agreed that the Heb. does this, the figures in Sam. and LXX. having been arbitrarily increased for the purpose of lengthening the entire period. The majority of scholars hold the same view in regard also to (1); but Dillmann gives here the preference to the figures of the Sam. The figures, of course, in no case possess historical value: accepting even Ussher’s date of the Exodus, 1491 B.C., which is earlier than is probable, we should obtain from them for the creation of man 4157 B.C., or (LXX.) 5328, and for the confusion of tongues, which, according to Gen. xi. 1-9, immediately followed the Flood, 2501 B.C., or (LXX.) 3066 B.C. But the monuments of Egypt and Babylonia make it certain that man must have appeared upon the earth long before either 4157 B.C. or 5328 b.c.; and numerous inscriptions, written in three distinct languages—Egyptian, Sumerian and Babylonian—are preserved dating from an age considerably earlier than either 2501 B.C. or 3066 B.C. The figures of Gen. v. and xi. thus merely indicate the manner in which the author of the Priestly Narrative—and probably to some extent tradition before him—pictured the course of these early ages of the world’s history. The ages assigned to the several patriarchs (except Enoch) in Gen. v. are much greater than those assigned to the patriarchs mentioned in Gen. xi., and similarly the ages in Gen. xi. 10-18 are higher than those in Gen. xi. 19-26; it is thus a collateral aim of the author to exemplify the supposed gradual diminution in the normal years of human life.
(3) From the Call of Abraham to the Exodus.
|From the Call of Abraham to the birth of Isaac
(Abraham being then aged 100, Gen. xxi. 5).
Age of Isaac at the birth of Esau and Jacob (Gen. xxv. 26)
Age of Jacob when he went down into Egypt (Gen. xlvii. 9)
The period of the Patriarchs’ sojourn in Canaan was thus
But the period of the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt,
according to Ex. xii. 40, 41, was
We thus get—
From the Call of Abraham to the Exodus (Heb. text) 215 + 430 =
From the Flood to the Call of Abraham (Heb. text)
From the Creation of Man to the Flood (Heb. text)
From the Creation of Man to the Exodus (Heb. text)
On these figures the following remarks may be made:—(i.) In Genesis the chronology of the Priestly Narrative (“P”) is not consistent with the chronology of the other parts of the book (“JE”). Three or four illustrations will suffice: (a) The author of Gen. xii. 10-20 evidently pictures Sarai as a comparatively young woman, yet according to P (xii. 4, xvii. 17) she was 65 years old. (b) In Gen. xxi. 15 it is clearly implied that Ishmael has been carried by his mother, yet according to xvi. 16, xxi. 5, 8, he must have been at least 15 years old. (c) In Gen. xxvii. Isaac is to all appearance on his death-bed (cf. ver. 2), yet according to P (xxv. 26, xxvi. 34, xxxv. 28) he survived for eighty years, dying at the age of 180. Ussher and others, arguing back from the dates in xlvii. 9, xlv. 6, xli. 46, xxxi. 41, infer that Jacob’s flight to Haran took place in his 77th year. This reduces the 80 years to 43 years, though that is scarcely less incredible. It involves, moreover, the incongruity of supposing that thirty-seven years elapsed between Esau’s marrying his Hittite wives (xxvi. 34) and Rebekah’s expressing her apprehensions (xxvii. 46) lest Jacob, then aged seventy-seven, should follow his brother’s example. (d) In Gen. xliv. 20 Benjamin is described as a “little one”; in P, almost immediately afterwards (xlvi. 21), he appears as the father of ten sons; for a similar anomaly in xlvi. 12, see the Oxford Hexateuch, i. p. 25n. (ii.) The ages to which the various patriarchs lived (Abraham, 175; Isaac, 180; Jacob, 147), though not so extravagant as those of the antediluvian patriarchs, or (with one exception) as those of the patriarchs between Noah and Abraham, are much greater than is at all probable in view of the structure and constitution of the human body. (iii.) The plain intention of Ex. xii 40, 41 is to describe the Israelites as having dwelt in Egypt for 430 years, which is also in substantial agreement with the earlier passage, Gen. xv. 13 (“shall sojourn in a land that is not theirs, ... and they shall afflict them 400 years”). It does not, however, accord with other passages, which assign only four generations from Jacob’s children to Moses (Ex. vi. 16-20; Num. xxvi. 5-9; cf. Gen. xv. 16), or five to Joshua (Josh. vii. 1); and for this reason, no doubt, the Sam. and LXX. read in Ex. xii. 40, “The sojourning of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, was 430 years,” reducing the period of the sojourn in Egypt to half of that stated in the Hebrew text, viz. 215 years. This computation attained currency among the later Jews (Josephus and others; cf. the “400 years” of Gal. iii. 17). The forced and unnatural rendering of Ex. xii. 40 in the A.V. (contrast R.V.), which was followed by Ussher, is intended for the purpose of making it possible. From the facts that have been here briefly noted it must be evident how precarious and, in parts, how impossible the Biblical chronology of this period is. (iv.) It has been observed as remarkable that 2666, the number of years (in the Hebrew text) from the Creation of Man to the Exodus, is, in round numbers, just two-thirds of 4000; and the fact has suggested the inference that the figure was reached by artificial computation.
The Date of the Exodus.—Is it possible to determine this, even approximately, upon the basis of external data? (i.) The correspondence between the Egyptian governors established in different parts of Palestine and the Egyptian kings Amen-hôtep (Amenophis) III. and IV. of the 18th dynasty, which was discovered in 1887 at Tel el-Amarna, makes it evident that Palestine could not yet have been in the occupation of the Israelites. It was still an Egyptian province, and the Babylonian language, in which the correspondence is written, shows that the country must have been for a considerable time past, before it came into the possession of Egypt, under Babylonian influence. Now one of the kings, who corresponds with Amen-hōtep IV., is Burnaburiash (Burna-buryas), king of Babylon, and Egyptologists and Assyriologists are agreed that the date of these monarchs was c. 1400 B.C. The conquest of Canaan, consequently, could not have taken place till after 1400 B.C. (ii.) It is stated in Ex. i. 11 that the Israelites built in Egypt for the Pharaoh two store-cities, Pithom and Rameses. The excavations of M. Naville have, however, shown that Ramses II. of the 19th dynasty was the builder of Pithom; and though the other city has not at present been certainly identified, its name is sufficient to show that he was its builder likewise. Hence the Pharaoh of the Exodus is commonly supposed to have been Ramses (Rameses) II.’s successor, Merenptah (Mineptah). Egyptian chronology is unfortunately imperfect; but Professor Petrie, who has paid particular attention to the subject, and who assigns the reign of Amen-hōtep IV. to 1383-1365 B.C., assigns Ramses II. to 1300-1234 B.C. In Merenptah’s fifth year the Delta was invaded by a formidable body of Libyans and other foes; and it has been conjectured that the Israelites took the opportunity of escaping during the unsettlement that was thus occasioned.
The mention of Israel on the stele of Merenptah, discovered by Petrie in 1896 (“Israel [Ysirael] is desolated; its seed [or fruit] is not”), is too vague and indefinite in its terms to throw any light on the question of the Exodus. The context speaks of places in or near Canaan; and it is possible that the reference is to Israelite clans who either had not gone down into Egypt at all, or had already found their way back to Palestine. See Hogarth’s Authority and Archaeology, pp. 62-65.
2. From the Exodus to the Foundation of the Temple (in the fourth year of Solomon, 1 Kings vi. 1).—In the chronological note, 1 Kings vi. 1, this period is stated to have consisted of 480 (LXX. 440) years. Is this figure correct? If the years of the several periods of oppression and independence mentioned in the Book of Judges (Judges iii. 8, 11, 14, 30, iv. 3, v. 31, vi. 1, viii. 28, ix. 22, x. 2, 3, 8, xii. 7, 9, 11, 14, xiii. 1, xv. 20, xvi. 31) be added up, they will be found to amount to 410 years; to these must be added further, in order to gain the entire period from the Exodus to the foundation of the Temple, the 40 years in the wilderness, x years under Joshua and the elders (Judges ii. 7), the 40 (LXX. 20) years’ judgeship of Eli (1 Sam. iv. 18), the 20 or more years of Samuel (1 Sam. vii. 2, 15), the y years of Saul (the two years of 1 Sam. xiii. 1 [R.V.] seem too few), the 40 years of David (1 Kings ii. 11), and the first four years of Solomon, i.e. 144 + x + y years, in all 554 years, + two unknown periods denoted by x and y—in any case considerably more than the 480 years of 1 Kings vi. 1. This period might no doubt be reduced to 480 years by the supposition, in itself not improbable, that some of the judges were local and contemporaneous; the suggestion has also been made that, as is usual in Oriental chronologies, the years of foreign domination were not counted, the beginning of each judge’s rule being reckoned, not from the victory which brought him into power, but from the death of his predecessor; we should in this case obtain for the period from the Exodus to the foundation of the Temple 440 + x + y years, which if 30 years be assigned conjecturally to Joshua and the elders, and 10 years to Saul, would amount exactly to 480 years. The terms used, however (“and the land had rest forty years,” iii. 11, similarly, iii. 30, v. 31, viii. 28), seem hardly to admit of the latter supposition; and even if they did, it would still be scarcely possible to maintain the correctness of the 480 years: it is difficult to harmonize with what, as we have seen, appears to be the most probable date of the Exodus; it is, moreover, open itself to the suspicion of having been formed artificially, upon the assumption that the period in question consisted of twelve generations, of 40 years each. In the years assigned to the different judges, also, the frequency of the number 40 (which certainly appears to have been regarded by the Hebrews as a round number) is suspicious. On the whole no certain chronology of this period is at present attainable.
3. From the Fourth Year of Solomon to the Captivity of Judah.—During this period the dates are both more abundant, and also, approximately, far more nearly correct, than in any of the earlier periods; nevertheless in details there is still much uncertainty and difficulty. The Books of Kings are a compilation made at about the beginning of the Exile, and one object of the compiler was to give a consecutive and complete chronology of the period embraced in his work. With this purpose in view, he not only notes carefully the length of the reign of each king in both kingdoms, but also (as long as the northern kingdom existed) brings the history of the two kingdoms into relation with one another by equating the commencement of each reign in either kingdom with the year of the reign of the contemporary king in the other kingdom.
In these chronological notices the lengths of the reigns were derived, there is every reason to suppose, either from tradition or from the state annals—the “book of the chronicles of Israel” (or “Judah”), so constantly referred to by the compiler as his authority (e.g. 1 Kings xv. 23, 31, xvi. 5); but the “synchronisms”—i.e. the corresponding dates in the contemporary reigns in the other kingdom were derived, it is practically certain, by computation from the lengths of the successive reigns. Now in some cases, perhaps, in the lengths of the reigns themselves, in other cases in the computations based upon them, errors have crept in, which have vitiated more or less the entire chronology of the period. The existence of these errors can be demonstrated in two ways: (1) The chronology of the two kingdoms is not consistent with itself; (2) the dates of various events in the history, which are mentioned also in the Assyrian inscriptions, are in serious disagreement with the dates as fixed by the contemporary Assyrian chronology.(1) That the chronology of the two kingdoms is inconsistent with itself is readily shown. After the division of the kingdom the first year of Jeroboam in Israel coincides, of course, with the first year of Rehoboam in Judah; and after the death of Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah in battle with Jehu (2 Kings ix. 24, 27), the first year of Jehu in Israel coincides similarly with the first year of Athaliah in Judah; there are thus in the history of the two kingdoms two fixed and certain synchronisms. Now, if the regnal years of the kings of Israel from Jeroboam to Jehoram be added together, they will be found to amount to 98, while if those of the kings of Judah for the same period (viz. from Rehoboam to Ahaziah) be added together, they amount only to 95. This discrepancy, if it stood alone, would not, however, be serious. But when we proceed to add up similarly the regnal years in the two kingdoms from the division after Solomon’s death to the fall of Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii. 10), we find in the southern kingdom 260 years, and in the northern kingdom only 241 years 7 months. This is a formidable discrepancy. Ussher, in order to remove it, has recourse to the doubtful expedient of artificially lengthening the northern series of years, by assuming (without any authority in the text) an “interregnum of 11 years” after the death of Jeroboam II., and an “anarchy for some years” between Pekah and Hoshea (see the margin of A.V. at 2 Kings xiv. 29; xv. 8, 29).
The dates printed in heavy type are certain, at least within a unit.
| Probable Real
|Biblical Events.||Events in Contemporary History.|
| Indeterminable, but
much before 7000 B.C.
c. 2100 (if, as is
probable, the Amraphel
of Gen. xiv. 1 is
933. Rehoboam (17)
916. Abijah (3)
913. Asa (41)
| Creation of Man
933. Jeroboam I. (22)
912. Nadab (2)
911. Baasha (24)
| 7-6000. Temple of Bel
at Nippur founded.
c. 4000.37 Lugal-zaggisi,
king of Uruk (Erech, Gen.
3800. Sargon of Agadē, who
carries his arms as far
as the Mediterranean Sea.
c. 2800. Ur-bau and Dungi,
kings of Uru (Ur, Gen. xi.
c. B.C. 2130-2088. Khammurabi
unifies Babylonia and constructs
in it many great works (see art.
c. 1400. Burnaburiash. Tel el-
| c. 2300. Ushpia, priest of
Ashur, builder of temple
in the city of Ashur.
c. 2225. Ilu-shūma, first
king of Assyria at present
c. 1300. Shalmaneser I.
(builder of Calah,
Gen. x. 11.)
| 4777. Menes, the first king of the|
First Egyptian Dynasty
3998-3721. Fourth Dynasty.
3969-3908. Cheops. The Great
2098-1587. Rule of the Hyksos.
1587-1328. Eighteenth Dynasty.
1503-1449. Thothmes (Tethmosis)
III. (leads victorious expeditions
1383-1365. Amen-hōtep IV.
1328-1202. Nineteenth Dynasty
1300-1234. Ramses II.
1234-1214. Merenptab II.
952-749 (al. 945-745). Twenty-
952-930 (Breasted 945-
924). Sheshonq (Shishak).
Shishak invades Judah in
the fifth year of Rehoboam
(1 Ki. xiv. 25 f.)
| Probable Real
|Biblical Events.||Events in Contemporary History.|
842. Ahaziah (1)
842. Athaliah (6)
836. Jehoash (40)
797. Amaziah (29)
c. 750. Jotham (16) as
regent. (2 Ki. xv. 5)
736. Ahaz (16)
728.47 Hezekiah (29)
698. Manasseh (55)
887. Zimri (7 days)
887. Omri (12)
876. Ahab (22)
854. Ahaziah (2)
853. Jehoram (12)
842. Jehu (28)
814. Jehoahaz (17)
798. Jehoash (16)
743. Zechariah (6 mo.)
743. Shallum (1 mo.)
743. Menahem (10)
733. (or 732) Hoshea (9)
722. Fall of Samaria and
end of northern
under the name of
Pulu (cf. 2 Ki. xv. 19),
king of Babylon.
721-710. The Chaldaean prince,
Merodach-baladan, king of
Babylon (cf. 2 Kings xx. 12 =
Is. xxxix. 1)
| 885-860. Asshur-nazir-abal
860-825. Shalmaneser II.
854. Ahab mentioned at the
battle of Karkar
842. Jehu pays tribute
to Shalmaneser II.
812-783. Adad-Nirāri IV.
745-727. Tiglath-pileser IV.
738. Menahem pays tribute
to Tiglath-pileser IV.
(cf. 2 Ki. xv. 19)
733 (or 732). Assassination
of Pekah, and succession
of Hoshea, mentioned by
732. Capture of Damascus
by Tiglath-pileser IV.
(2 Ki. xvi. 9; cf. Is. viii.
4, xvii. 1)
727-722. Shalmaneser IV.
722. Capture of Samaria
in Sargon's accession-year.
711. Siege and capture
of Ashdod. (cf. Is. xx. 1)
701. Campaign against
Phoenicia, Philistia and
Judah (2 Kings xviii.
715. Sabako (Shabaka)
693.48 Taharqa (Tirhakah,
Is. xxxvii. 9)
|Biblical Events.||Events in Contemporary History.|
641. Amon (2)
639. Josiah (31)
626. Call of the prophet Jeremiah in Josiah's
13th year. (Jer. i. 2, xxv. 3)
621. Discovery of the Book of the Law
(Deuteronomy) in Josiah's 18th year (2
Kings xxiii. 3 ff.)
608. Jehoahaz (3 mo.)
608. Jehoiakim (11)
597. Jehoiachin (3 mo.) First deportation
of captives (including Jehoiachin) to
Babylonia, in the 8th year of Nebuchadnezzar
(2 Kings xxiv. 12-16)
597. Zedekiah (11)
586. Destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans
in the 19th year of 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar
(2 Kings xxv. 8). Second deportation
of captives to Babylonia (2 Kings
561. Jehoiachin released from prison by
Evil-merodach in the 37th year of his
captivity (2 Kings xxv. 27-30)
return to Palestine. Many return under
the leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra i.-ii.)
516. Completion of the second Temple in
the 6th year of Darius (Ezra vi. 15)
458. Return of exiles with Ezra, in the 7th
year of Artaxerxes (Ezra vii. 7)
445. Nehemiah's first visit to Jerusalem
(Neh. i. 1, ii. 1)
432. Nehemiah's second visit to Jerusalem
(Neh. xiii. 6)
c. 350. Many Jews carried away captive to
Hyrcania and Babylonia, probably on
account of a revolt against the Persians
605. Defeat of Egyptians
by Nebuchadrezzar (as his
father's general) at
Carchemish (Jer. xlvi. 2)
568. Nebuchadrezzar invades
Egypt (cf. Jer. xliii.
561. Amēl-marduk (Evil-
merodach, 2 Ki. xxv. 27)
559. Nergal-sharuzur (Neriglissar)
555. (9 months) Lābashi-marduk
555. Nabu-na'id (Nabon-nēdus,
539. Capture of Babylon by Cyrus
522. (7 mo.) Gaumāta
522. Darius Hystaspis
490. Battle of Marathon
480. Battles of Thermopylae
423. Darius II. (Nothus)
404. Artaxerxes II. (Mnemon)
359. Artaxerxes III. (Ochus)
336. Darius III. (Codomannus)
333. Persian Empire overthrown
by Alexander the Great
| 670. Esarhaddon conquers
663. Asshur-banipal invades
Egypt, and sacks Thebes
(Nah. iii. 8-10
607. Destruction of Nineveh
by the Medes, and
end of the empire of
664-525. Twenty-sixth Dynasty.
664. Psammetichus I.
608. Battle of Megiddo,
and death of Josiah.
(2 Kings xxiii. 29)
594. Psammetichus II. (Psammis)
589. Apries (Hophra, Jer. xliv. 30)
570. Amasis II. (jointly
564. Amasis alone
526. Psammetichus III.
525. Conquest of Egypt
Palestine now becomes a province, first of the empire of Alexander, and afterwards of that of one or other of Alexander’s successors.
332. The Jews submit to Alexander the Great.
323. Death of Alexander in Babylon.
322. Alexander’s general, Ptolemy Lagi, becomes Satrap of Egypt.
320. Ptolemy Lagi gains possession of Palestine, which, with short interruptions, continues in the hands of the Ptolemies till 198.312. Beginning of the era of the Seleucidae (reckoned from the time when Seleucus Nicator, Alexander’s former heavy cavalry officer, finally established himself in the satrapy of Babylonia. He founded Antioch as his capital, 300 B.C.).
198. Antiochus the Great, king of Syria (223-187), defeats Ptolemy Epiphanes at Panias (Bāniyas, near the sources of the Jordan), and obtains possession of Palestine.
175-164. Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria (Dan. xi. 21-45).
168. Antiochus’s attempt to suppress the religion of the Jews (1 Macc. i. 41-63; cf. Dan. vii. 8, 21, 24-26, viii. 9-14, xii. 10-12). Public worship suspended in the Temple for three years.
167. Rise of the Maccabees (1 Macc. ii.).
166-165. Victories of Judas Maccabaeus over the generals of Antiochus (1 Macc. iii.-iv.).
165. Re-dedication of the Temple on 25th Chisleu (December), 1 Macc. iv. 52-61.
160. Death of Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. ix. 1-22).
160-142. Jonathan, younger brother of Judas, leader of the loyal Jews (1 Macc. ix. 23-xii. 53).
142-135. Simon, elder brother of Judas (1 Macc, xiii.-xvi.).
135-105. John Hyrcanus, son of Simon.
105-104. Aristobulus I. (son of Hyrcanus), king.
104-78. Alexander Jannaeus (brother of Aristobulus), king.
78-69. Salome (Alexandra), widow of Alexander Jannaeus.
69. Aristobulus II. (son of Alexandra).65. Capture of Jerusalem by Pompey. Palestine becomes a part of the Roman province of Syria.
(2) As we now know, the methods of chronological computation adopted by the Assyrians were particularly exact. Every year a special officer was appointed, who held office for that year, and gave his name to the year; and “canons,” or lists, of these officers have been discovered, extending from 893 to 666 B.C. The accuracy of these canons can in many cases be checked by the full annals which we now possess of the reigns of many of the kings—as of Asshur-nazir-abal or Assur-nasir-pal (885-860 B.C.), Shalmaneser II. (860-825), Tiglath-pileser IV. (745-727), Sargon (722-705), Sennacherib (704-781), Esarhaddon (681-668), and Asshurbanipal or Assur-bani-pal (668-626). Thus from 893 B.C. the Assyrian chronology is certain and precise. Reducing now both the Assyrian and Biblical dates to a common standard, and adopting for the latter the computations of Ussher, we obtain the following singular series of discrepancies:—
Reign of Ahab
Ahab mentioned at the battle of Karkar
Reign of Jehu
Jehu pays tribute to Shalmancser II.
Reign of Menahem
Menahem mentioned by Tiglath-pileser IV.
Reign of Pekah
Reign of Hoshea
Assassination of Pekah and succession
of Hoshea, mentioned by Tiglath-pileser IV.
Capture of Samaria by Sargon in Hezekiah’s
sixth year (2 Kings xviii. 10)
Invasion of Judah by Sennacherib in Hezekiah’s
fourteenth year (ibid. ver. 13)
733 (or 732)
Manifestly all the Biblical dates earlier than 733-732 B.C. are too high, and must be considerably reduced: the two events, also, in Hezekiah’s reign—the fall of Samaria and the invasion of Sennacherib—which the compiler of the book of Kings treats as separated by an interval of eight years, were separated in reality by an interval of twenty-one years. Much has been written on the chronology of the kings and many endeavours have been made to readjust the Biblical figures so as to bring them into consistency with themselves and at the same time into conformity with the Assyrian dates. But, though the fact of there being errors in the Biblical figures is patent, it is not equally clear at what points the error lies, or how the available years ought to be redistributed between the various reigns. It is in any case evident that the accession of Jehu and Athaliah must be brought down from 884 to 842 B.C.; and this will involve, naturally, a corresponding reduction of the dates of the previous kings of both kingdoms, and of course, at the same time, of those of Solomon, David and Saul. The difficulty is, however, greatest in the 8th century. Here, in Judah, from the accession of Athaliah to the accession of Ahaz, tradition gives 143 years, whereas, in fact, there were but 106 years (842-736); and in Israel, from the death of Menahem to the fall of Samaria, it gives 31 years, whereas from 738 (assuming that Menahem died in that year) to 722 there are actually only 16 years. The years assigned by tradition to the reigns in both kingdoms in the middle part of the 8th century B.C. have thus to be materially reduced. But in the following period, from the fall of Samaria in 722 to the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans in 586, the Biblical dates, so far as we can judge, are substantially correct. (See further the table above.)
4. From the Destruction of Jerusalem in 586 to the close of the Old Testament History.—Here, though it is true that there are events in the Biblical history which are not fully or unambiguously dated, there is otherwise no difficulty. The lengths of the reigns of Nebuchadrezzar and his successors on the throne of Babylon, and also, after the conquest of Babylon, of Cyrus and the following Persian kings, are known from the “Canon of Ptolemy,” referred to above, the particulars in which, for the earlier part of this period, are also confirmed by the testimony of the monuments.
(B) New Testament.
The New Testament is the collection of the Sacred Books of Christians. It forms in the Bible the distinctive possession of Christians, just as the Old Testament is the collection of Sacred Books which Christians share with Jews. Every term in the definition is significant and has a history. There are, first, the Books; then, the Collection; then, the Sacred Volume, complete as such in idea, though not as yet complete in its actual contents; and, lastly, the Sacred Volume in its full dimensions, as it has come down to us.
There is a double development, of quality and of quantity; of quality, as to the estimate formed of the books, their increasing recognition as sacred; and of quantity, by which the books so recognized were gradually brought up to their present number. Our duty will be to describe this double process, and we shall do so under the four heads: (α) The Growth of a specifically Christian Literature; (β) The Collection of the Books into a single volume, made up of ordered groups; (γ) The investing of this volume with the character of a Sacred Book; and (δ) The gradual settlement by which the volume assumed its present dimensions, neither less nor more.
The model throughout was the Old Testament. The result was attained when there was a definite volume called the New Testament by the side of the earlier volume called the Old Testament, complete like it, and like it endowed with the attributes of a Sacred Book. This is the consummation towards which events had been steadily moving—not at first consciously, for it was some time before the tendencies at work were consciously realized—but ending at last in the complete equation of Old Testament and New, and in the bracketing together of both as the first and second volumes of a single Bible. This is the process that we shall have to describe. And because the process before us is the gradual assimilation of New Testament and Old Testament, we shall have to include at each step all that bears upon this. For instance, at starting, it will not be enough for us simply to tell the story how the Books of the New Testament came to be written, but we shall have to point out what there was about them which fitted them to be what they afterwards became, what inherent qualities they possessed which suggested the estimate ultimately put upon them; in others words, how they came to be not only a collection of Christian books, but a collection of Christian sacred books, or part of a Bible.
(α) The Growth of a Christian Literature. 1. The Pauline Epistles.—The Bible of Jesus and His disciples was the Old Testament. And both Jesus and His disciples were to all appearance content with this. It was probably two full decades after the death of Christ before there were any specifically Christian writings at all. The first generation of Christians was not given to writing. There was not only no obvious reason why it should write, but there was a positive reason why it should not write. This reason lay in the dominant attitude of Christians, which was what we call “eschatological.” The first generation of Christians lived in the daily expectation that Christ would return from heaven. The truth is, that not only were Christians expecting (as we say) the Second Coming of the Messiah, but what they expected was the Coming. The Messiah, as all Jews conceived of Him, was a superhuman being; and His First Coming as a man among men did not count as really Messianic. The whole first generation of Christians looked intently for His Coming in power and great glory, which they believed to be near at hand. In such a state of mind as this there was no motive for seeking permanence by writing. Men who imagined that they might at any moment be caught up to meet the Lord in the air were not likely to take steps for the instruction of the generations that might come after them.
Hence the first Christian writings were no deliberate product of theologians who supposed themselves to be laying the foundation of a sacred volume. They were not an outcome of the dominant tendencies of the time, but they arose rather in spite of them, in the simplest way, just from the practical needs of the moment.
It was thus that St Paul came to write his two epistles to the Thessalonians, the oldest Christian documents that we possess. By this time he was launched on his missionary labours; he had founded a number of churches, and he was going on to found others. And these earliest epistles are just the substitute for his personal presence, advice which he took occasion to send to his converts after he had left them. There are a few indications that he had sent similar communications to other churches before, but these have not been preserved. Indeed the wonder is—and it is a testimony to the strength of the impression which St Paul left upon all with whom he came into contact—that these missionary letters of his should have begun to be preserved so soon.
Both Epistles to the Thessalonians have for their object to calm somewhat the excited expectations of which we have spoken.
The first Epistle hits exactly the prominent features in the situation, when it reminds the Thessalonians how they had “turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven,” who would deliver them from the wrath to come (1 Thess. i. 9, 10). The turning from idols was of course peculiar to the Gentile communities, but the waiting for the Messiah from heaven was common to all Christians, whatever their origin. In this we may take the epistle as typical of the state of the whole Church at the time. And there is another important passage which shows why, in spite of its natural and occasional character, the epistle exhibits the germs of that essential quality which caused all the books of the New Testament to be so highly estimated. The apostle again reminds his readers how they had received his preaching “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God,” which showed its power by the way in which it took hold of those who believed in it (1 Thess. ii. 13). The reference is of course primarily to the spoken word, but the written word had the same qualities as the spoken. It was the deep impression made by these which prepared Christians generally to accept the apostolic writings as inspired, and therefore sacred. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that the estimate formed by the early Church of its Bible was a merely arbitrary verdict imposed by an external authority; it was the expression, and the natural expression (though following certain prescribed lines), of its real sense of the value and fundamentally divine origin of the writings which it treasured.
Nearest in character to the Thessalonian Epistles are the two to Corinth, which have perhaps an interval of a year and a half between them. When 1 Corinthians was written, the attitude of the Church was still strongly eschatological (1 Cor. i. 7, 8, iii. 13-15, vii. 26, 29-31, xv. 25, 26, 51-54, xvi. 23). The thoughts of men were still set upon the near approach of the end, the troublous times that would issue in the break-up of the existing order and the return of Christ to introduce a new era. There was no idea of constructing a systematic theology; Christ was still the Jewish Messiah, and His Coming was conceived of as the Jews conceived of the coming of the Messiah, as a great supernatural event transforming the face of things and inaugurating the reign of God. In view of this approaching revolution, both the Church and the world were regarded as living from hand to mouth. It was useless to attempt to found permanent institutions; everything was provisional and for the moment. And yet, even under these conditions, some practical arrangements had to be made. The epistle is taken up with matters of this kind; either the apostle is reproving disorders and abuses actually existing in the Church, and almost sure to exist in a young community that had just adopted a novel method of life and had as yet no settled understanding of the principles involved in it; or else he is replying to definite questions put to him by his converts. In all this the epistle is still a genuine letter, and not a treatise. It only rises from time to time above the level of a letter, through the extraordinary penetration, force, enthusiasm and elevation of feeling that the apostle throws into his treatment of more or less ordinary topics. He can never rest until he has carried up the question of the moment to some higher ground of faith or conduct. It is in this incidental and digressive way that we get the description of the Gospel in i. 18-ii. 16; of the Christian ministry in chs. iii., iv.; of the principle of consideration for others in ch. ix.; of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in chs. x., xi.; of Christian love in ch. xiii.; of the Resurrection and its consequences in ch. xv.
2 Corinthians is even more a product of the situation: it is even more taken up with personal relations. No epistle sheds more light on St Paul’s character as a man—so mobile, so tactful, so tender and affectionate, and yet so statesmanlike and so commanding. If doctrinal utterances occur from time to time, they are in every case incidental and unpremeditated.
The development of doctrine in St Paul’s epistles is due in part to the gradual subsiding of the eschatological temper, but even more to the growth of controversy. A crisis had arisen in Galatia owing to the invasion of the churches, which St Paul had founded there, by reactionary Jews. This called forth a letter from St Paul, who felt himself compelled to grapple at close quarters with teaching which he saw cut at the very root of his own. He was thus led both to clear up for himself and to state for the sake of others his whole conception of soteriology—his answer to the question how was man to be set right before God. That was a large part, and at the moment the most crucial part, of the whole problem of religion.
Two or three years later (c. A.D. 55-56) St Paul was bent on paying a visit to Rome. He was not going there straight, but to Jerusalem first. He knew that he could only do this at the imminent peril of his life. It seemed very doubtful whether he would accomplish his desire. And therefore he took the opportunity to send to the Romans what is really a summing up, not of the whole of Christianity, but of that side of Christianity which the preceding controversy had brought into special relief. He states his case as part of a larger question still—a question that inevitably became pressing at that particular time—as to the entire religious relation of Jew and Gentile.
These years of shock and conflict could not fail to have marked effect upon the shaping of definite Christian doctrine. They drew attention away from the future to the present, and to the past as leading up to the present. They compelled a man like St Paul to theorize: thought was driven inward; it was made to search for foundations, to organize itself and knit together part with part. And the impulse thus given continued. It showed itself strongly in the epistles of the next group, especially Ephesians and Colossians. These epistles took their form at once from a natural progression of thought and from a new phase of controversy, a sort of Gnosticizing theory, or theories, which perverted Christian practice and impaired the supremacy of Christ by placing other beings or entities by His side. The apostle meets this by renewed emphasis on the central position of Christ; and he at the same time carries a step farther his conception of the unity of the Church, as embracing both Jew and Gentile. The predominance of this somewhat recondite teaching gave to these epistles even more the character of treatises, which in the case of Ephesians is further enhanced by the fact that it is probably a circular letter addressed not to a single church but to a group of churches. Philemon is of course a pure letter, and Philippians mainly so, the Pastorals, as their name implies, contain advice and instructions to the apostle’s lieutenants, Timothy and Titus, in the temporary charge committed to them of churches that the apostle could not visit himself.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is an epistolary treatise of uncertain date, on the Pauline model, and by a disciple of St Paul or at least a writer strongly influenced by him, though influenced also in no small degree by the Jewish school of Alexandria represented by Philo. Of the many theories as to the address, the most plausible are perhaps those which would apply to a single congregation of Hebrew Christians in Rome, or to a local church or group of local churches in Palestine, perhaps like that of which the centre would be at Caesarea. It is not probable that the epistle was addressed to the mother church at Jerusalem.
2. The Gospels and Acts.—The Gospels and Acts arose in a way very similar to the Pauline Epistles. Here too there was no deliberate intention of writing a series of books that should be at once accepted as sacred and authoritative. Here too the expectation of the near return of Christ doubtless delayed for a number of years the desire and need for written compositions. Here too the first steps were taken as the exigencies of the moment dictated. We are again driven to fill up the gaps in our knowledge by conjectures; but some such outline as the following has much to commend it.
When the enterprise of Christian missionaries had gone on for some little time, especially in the regions outside Palestine where there was little or no previous knowledge of Christ and of Christian ideals, the wandering prophets and apostles by whom the missions were mainly conducted must have soon begun to feel the need for some sort of written manual to supplement their own personal teaching. It was one of the characteristics of the early Christian teachers that they rarely stayed for any length of time in a place; they moved on, and the little congregation was left to wait for another visitor, who might be some time in coming. How was this interval to be filled? There would be every degree of preparation, or want of preparation, for the reception of Christian teaching. Some Jews, like those who are described in the Gospel as “waiting for the kingdom of God,” would be pious men and women carefully trained in the Old Testament, who would be almost fit for the kingdom even before they had heard of Christ. Other Gentile converts would require instruction in the very rudiments of ethical and monotheistic religion. Between these extremes there would be many shades and degrees of ignorance and knowledge. How could these various cases be met at once most simply and most effectually? We remember that the Christian preachers were preaching before all things a Person, but a Person whose interest for these new converts lay chiefly in the fact that He was about to come and establish a supernatural kingdom for which they had to fit themselves. The best way therefore of helping them to do this was to provide them with an outline of the characteristic teaching of Christ, which should be at the same time a clear statement of His moral demands. It is probable that these requirements suggested the form of the first Christian Gospel, which the writer believes to be rightly identified with the so-called Logia of St Matthew, now often designated by the symbol Q. It did not aim at being a history, and still less a complete history, but it was mainly a collection of sayings or discourses suited to supply a rule of life.
It would be somewhat later than this, and not until the eschatological outlook became weaker, and men began to turn their regard to the past rather than to the future, that there would gradually arise a more strictly historical interest. There is reason to think that in the Christian Church this interest did not begin to be active much before the decade A.D. 60-70. Its first conspicuous product was our present Gospel of St Mark, which was probably composed at Rome within the years 64-70. We say advisedly “our present Gospel of St Mark,” because there does not seem to us to be any sufficient reason for presupposing an Ur-Marcus, or older form of this Gospel.
These two works, the Logia (or, as some prefer to call it, the Non-Marcan document common to Matthew and Luke) and the Mark-Gospel, were the prime factors in all the subsequent composition of Gospels. Our Matthew and our Luke are just combinations, differently constructed, of these two documents, with a certain amount of additional matter which the editors had collected for themselves. And it is probable that other Gospels of which only fragments have come down to us, like the Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Peter, have been built up out of the same materials.
St Luke was the first to write, as we may see from his preface, definitely in the spirit of a historian. He addresses his work to Theophilus, apparently an official person, who had already been taught the main outlines of Christianity. He had planned his work on a large scale; and in Acts we have its second volume. It is an event of no small importance for criticism that so eminent a scholar as Prof. Harnack should have come round to the view, almost universally prevalent in England, that St Luke himself was the final editor and author of both the Third Gospel and the Acts. It is a very secondary question what is their exact date.
The reasons which converge upon the conclusion just expressed as to the origin and nature of the fundamental documents worked up in our present Synoptic Gospels are as follows:—(i.) The literary analysis of the Synoptic Gospels brings out a number of sections common to Matthew and Luke which probably at one time existed as an independent document. (ii.) This document consisted, in the main though not entirely, of a collection of Sayings of the Lord, which set in strong relief at once His character and the moral and religious ideal that He desired to commend. (iii.) We have an express statement, which must have been originally made before the end of the first century, that the apostle Matthew composed in Hebrew a work described as Logia. This word need not mean, but may quite well and pointedly mean, a collection specially of Sayings, and would still more aptly denote a collection of divine or authoritative sayings (λόγια = prop. “oracles”). (iv.) We know further that the conditions of early Christian missionary teaching were such as have been described. We learn this especially from the Didachē; and the first part of that work, the so-called “Two-Ways,” is commonly thought to have been in the first instance a Jewish manual put into the hands of proselytes. On our hypothesis the Logia would have been a sort of Christian manual used with a similar object. (v.) We are confirmed in this opinion by the fact that the epistles of St Paul furnish many indications that Christians in general, including those who had not been much in contact with the original Twelve, were well acquainted with the leading features in the character of Christ and in the Christian ideal, although there is little corresponding evidence for their knowledge of details in the life of Christ.
There is a similar statement to the one mentioned above, that like it must have been originally made before the end of the first century, as to a Gospel composed by St Mark on the basis mainly of the preaching of St Peter, though this need not exclude personal experience (as, e.g., perhaps in Mark xiv. 51-52) or information derived from other sources. Only raw materials came from St Peter, and those probably not checked or revised by him; the arrangement is due to Mark himself, and is more successful than might have been expected in the circumstances—indeed so successful as to suggest advice from some good quarter. According to Irenaeus (c. A.D. 185), who is more precise than Clement of Alexandria, the Gospel was not published until after the death of Peter, which would place its composition between the limits A.D. 65 and 70. The phenomena which are sometimes supposed to require the hypothesis of an Ur-Marcus are more simply and satisfactorily explained as incidents in the transmission of the Marcan text.
The matter peculiar to Matthew and Luke raises a number of interesting questions which are still too much sub judice to be answered decidedly or dogmatically, though approximate and provisional answers may before long be forthcoming. All parts of the problem have been greatly forwarded by the recent publication of important works by Wellhausen and Harnack (see below). The date of the completed Luke depends (a) on whether or not we believe Luke himself or a later disciple to be the author, and (b) whether or not we believe that the author of Acts had seen Josephus’ Antiquities, published in A.D. 93 or 94. Professor Burkitt takes an original line in maintaining that Luke was the author of both works, and yet that he had seen Antiq. The present writer is inclined to think the latter hypothesis not proven. The date of Matthew cannot be fixed more nearly than 70-100.
3. The Catholic Epistles.—The Catholic Epistles were so called in the first instance from their wider and more indefinite address; they were intended for Christians generally, or over some wide area, rather than for a particular church or individual. 2 and 3 John are exceptions, but probably came in under the wing of the larger epistle, which is strictly “catholic.” As applied to a class of epistles, the title dates from Eusebius, early in the 4th century; the epithet is given to single epistles by Origen, and is found as far back as the end of the 2nd century. In later Latin usage “catholic” came to mean much the same as “canonical,” another name that was also given.
This group of epistles practically continues and supplements the work of the epistles of St Paul, 1 Peter, if genuine, must date from the end of the apostle’s career (for the early composition claimed for it by B. Weiss is a paradox that may be disregarded). It was written to instruct and encourage the Christians of Asia Minor at a time of persecution, which on the hypothesis of genuineness, would be the Neronian, i.e. a secondary outbreak perhaps loosely connected with the onslaught in Rome. The Epistle of James (also, if genuine) must be placed late in the lifetime of the brother of the Lord. In that case it was probably not written with any direct polemic against writings of St Paul, but against hearsay versions of his teaching that had reached Jerusalem. Controversy of this kind is not always conducted with complete understanding of that which is being opposed. The Epistle of Jude cannot be either dated or localized with any certainty. It seems on the whole most probable that 2 Peter is not a genuine work, but that it came from the same factory of pseudonymous Petrine writings as the Apocalypse which bears the same name, though the one has, and the other has not, obtained a place within the Canon. This epistle was questioned from the first, and only gained its place with much hesitation, and rather through slackness of opposition than any conclusiveness of proof. The three Johannine epistles may be more conveniently treated under the next head.
Even in the case of the two more important epistles, 1 Peter and James, we have to add the qualification “if genuine,” but rather perhaps because of the persistence with which they are challenged than because of inherent defect of attestation. The evidence for 1 Peter is both early in date and wide in range, and the book was one of those that passed as “acknowledged” in antiquity. The evidence for James is not so widely diffused but is found in early writings. Perhaps the position of these two epistles might be described as not unlike that of Colossians and Ephesians. Instead of casting doubt upon them, we should prefer to say that they are both probably genuine, but that there are features about them that are not as yet fully explained. The chief of these features is their relation to the writings of St Paul. There is indeed so much that is Pauline in 1 Peter as to give distinct attractiveness to the hypothesis, which is most elaborately maintained by Zahn, that a larger share than usual in the composition of the letter was left to Silvanus (1 Peter v. 12). Nor does it appear to us that the objections to this theory brought by Dr Chase in his excellent article on the epistle in Hastings’ Dictionary are really so fatal as he supposes. The epistle is more the work of a companion of St Paul of long standing than of one who, with quite different and independent antecedents, had only been influenced by the perusal of one or two of St Paul’s letters. In the Epistle of James we have a really distinct type; and it seems to us that the degree to which the epistle misses its mark as a polemic may be easily and naturally accounted for in more ways than one.
4. The Johannine Writings.—The Gospel and Epistles that bear the name of John, and the Apocalypse, form a group of writings that stand very much by themselves and are still the subject of active discussion. The points in regard to them that would unite the greatest number of suffrages would seem to be these:—(i.) That, except 2 Peter, they are probably the latest of the New Testament writings, and that they form a group closely connected among themselves, though it is not clear how many hands have been at work in them, (ii.) That they arose not far from each other towards the end of the 1st century. The Apocalypse is plausibly dated by Reinach and Harnack near to the precise year 93, and the other writings may be referred to the reign of Domitian (81-96), though many critics would extend the limit to some two decades later, (iii.) The writings are to be connected, either more or less closely, with John of Ephesus, who was a prominent figure towards the end of the 1st century. On the other hand, the greatest differences would be:—(i.) As to the personal identity of this John—is he himself “the beloved disciple”? Is he the apostle, the son of Zebedee or another? Can the writer of the Apocalypse be the same as the writer of the Gospel and Epistles? (ii.) What is the exact relation of John of Ephesus to the Gospel? Is he its author or only the authority behind it? (iii.) How far is the Gospel intended to be, and how far is it, in the strict sense historical? This last question is beginning to overshadow all the rest.
Whatever may be the ultimate decision on these intricate questions, the Fourth Gospel in any case played a very important part in the history of the Church and of Christian theology. It drew together and gathered up into itself the forces at work in the apostolic age; and, by reaching out a hand as it were (through the preface) towards Greek philosophy, it succeeded in so formulating the leading doctrines of Christianity as to make it more acceptable than it had as yet been to the Gentile world, and in securing for the Gospel a place in the main stream of European thought. It is probably true to say that no other primitive Christian writing has had so marked an effect on all later attempts to systematize the Christian creed.
5. Other Literature not included in the New Testament.—It must not be thought that the primitive Christian literature came abruptly to an end with the writings that are included in our present New Testament. On the contrary, all round these there was a broad fringe of writings more or less approximating to them in character. Most nearly on the lines of the New Testament are the so-called Apostolic (really Sub-Apostolic) Fathers (Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, Didachē, Barnabas, the letters of Ignatius and the single letter of Polycarp, the Shepherd of Hermas, the homily commonly known as the Second Epistle of Clement). These are in most cases the writings of leading persons in the Church who took up and continued the tradition of the apostles. Barnabas and 2 Clement are more eccentric, but the writers must have been persons of some note. Outside this group would come what are called the Apocryphal Gospels and Acts (Gospel according to Hebrews, according to Egyptians, of Peter, of Truth, of the Twelve [or Ebionite Gospel], the recently recovered so-called Logia; the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Protevangelium of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Pilate, Acts of Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, Thomas; the Preaching of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter). As the 2nd century wears on, we come to controversial or philosophical works by Agrippa, Castor, Quadratus, Aristides. With the middle of the century we reach a considerable writer in Justin Martyr. With him the twilight period which succeeds to the apostolic age is over, and we enter upon the main course of ecclesiastical history. At this point, therefore, our survey may end.
(β) The Process of Discrimination and Collection, 1. Discrimination.—Throughout the apostolic age Christians were conscious of being carried forward in a great movement, the origin and motive-power of which they regarded as supernatural. It began on the Day of Pentecost, but continued in full tide almost to the end of the 1st century, and, even when it began to subside, it did so quite gradually. The moment of transition is clearly marked in the Didachē, where the charismatic ministry of “apostles and prophets” is beginning to give place to permanent local officials of the Church, bishops, presbyters and deacons. The literature that we now call the New Testament held its place because it was regarded as a product of the palmy days of that great movement. It was considered to be the work of inspired men, of men whom the Holy Spirit, at that time specially active in the Church, had chosen as its organs. We have seen how St Paul, for instance, fully believed that his own preaching had a force behind it which vindicated for it the claim to be “the word of God” (1 Thess. ii. 13); and it was inevitable that the other preachers and teachers should have had in different degrees something of the same consciousness. This consciousness receives perhaps its strongest expression in the Apocalypse.
There is really no contradiction between this sense of a high calling and mission, with a special endowment corresponding to it, and the other fact that the writings from this age that have come down to us are all (except perhaps the Apocalypse, and even the Apocalypse, in some degree, as we see by the letters to the Seven Churches) strictly occasional and natural in their origin. The lives and actions of apostles and prophets were in their general tenor like those of other men; it was only that, for the particular purpose of their mission, they found themselves carried beyond and above themselves. St Paul himself knew when he was speaking by the Spirit, and when he was not; and we too can recognize to some extent when the afflatus comes upon him. It is fortunate that this should be so clearly marked in his epistles, because it enables us to argue by analogy to the other writers. When we come to historical books like the third Gospel and the Acts, we find the writer just pursuing the ordinary methods of history, and not claiming to do anything more (Luke i. 1-4). With the methods of history, these writers were naturally exposed to the risks and chances of error attendant upon those methods. There was hot at first among the writers any idea that they were composing an infallible narrative. The freedom with which they used each other’s work, and with which the early texts were transmitted, excludes this. But there was the idea that the whole movement of the Church to which they gave expression was in a special sense divine. And this belief was the fundamental principle that determined the marking off of the writings of the first, or apostolic, age from the rest.
At the same time it must not be supposed that a hard and fast line can be drawn beyond which the spiritual stimulus of this first age ceased. The writings of Clement of Rome (A.D. 97) and of Ignatius (c. A.D. 110) mark the transition. Ignatius, for instance, clearly distinguishes between his own position and that of the apostles: “I do not enjoin you. as Peter and Paul did. They were Apostles, I am a convict; they were free, but I am a slave to this very hour” (Rom. iv. 3). And yet, none the less, Ignatius is conscious of acting and speaking at times from a kind of inspiration. “Even though certain persons desired to deceive me after the flesh, yet the spirit is not deceived, being from God; for it knoweth whence it cometh and where it goeth, and it searcheth out the hidden things. I cried out, when I was among you; I spake with a loud voice, with God’s own voice, give ye heed to the bishops, and the presbyters and deacons” (Philadelph. vii. 1). In like manner Clement, in two places (lix. 1, lxiii. 2), writes as though God were speaking through him.
2. Collection.—Concurrently with the tendency to discriminate between the higher authority of certain writings and the lower authority of others, there was also a tendency to collect and group together writings of the first class. The earliest example of this tendency is in the case of the Pauline Epistles. Marcion, we know (c. A.D. 140), had a collection of ten out of thirteen, in the order, Gal., 1 and 2 Cor., Rom., 1 and 2 Thess., Laodic. (= Eph.), Col., Phil., Philem. We observe that the Pastorals are omitted. But it is highly probable that the collection went back a full generation before Marcion. The short Epistle of Polycarp contains references or allusions to no less than nine out of the thirteen epistles, including 2 Thess., Eph., 1 and 2 Tim. Ignatius, writing just before, gives clear indications of six, including 1 Tim. and Titus. The inference lies near at hand that both writers had access to the full collection of thirteen, not omitting the Pastorals. Polycarp (ad Phil. xiii. 2) shows how strong was the interest in collecting the writings of eminent men.
It of course did not follow that, because the letters of St Paul were collected, they were therefore regarded as sacred. The feeling towards them at first would be simply an instinct of respect and deference; but we have seen above that the essential conditions of the higher estimate were present all along, and were only waiting to be recognized as soon as reflective thought was turned upon them. This process appears to have been going on throughout the middle years of the 2nd century.
The famous passage of Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. iii. 15. 8) assumes the possession by the Church of four authoritative Gospels and no more. This is the general view of the Church of his time, except the little clique known as the Alogi who rejected the Fourth Gospel, and Marcion, who only recognized St Luke. But here again, we may go back some way farther. Irenaeus writes (c. A.D. 185) as though the Four Gospels had held the field as far back as he can remember. About A.D. 170 Tatian, the disciple of Justin, composed out of these Gospels his Diatessaron. If Justin used any other Gospel, his use of it was very subordinate. Practically we may say that the estimate of the Four to which Tatian and Irenaeus testify must have been well established by the middle of the century, though sporadic instances may be found of the use of other Gospels that did not become canonical. The sifting out of these was proceeding steadily and gradually, and by the end of the century it may be regarded as complete.
We must make allowance for the existence of this margin, and for the blurring of the boundary-line that goes along with it. We cannot claim for the Church absolute sureness of judgment as to what falls on one side of the line and what on the other. It is possible, e.g., that a mistake has been made in the case of 2 Peter, which, however, is edifying enough. It is not less possible that writings like 1 Clem, and Epp. Ignat. are not inferior in real religious value to the Epistle of Jude. But, broadly speaking, the judgment of the early Church has been endorsed by that of after ages.
3. Influences at work.—The whole process of the formation of the New Testament was steady and gradual. The critical period, during which the conception grew up of the New Covenant with its sacred book by the side of the Old Covenant, which in its written embodiment we call the Old Testament, extends roughly over the 2nd century. By the last decades of that century a preliminary list of these new Sacred Books had been formed and placed by the side of the Old with substantially the same attributes. We must briefly sketch the process by which this came about, tracing the causes which led to the result and indicating the manner in which they operated.
We have seen that the ultimate cause was the consciousness on the part of the Church that the first age of its own history was characterized by spiritual workings more intense than other times. This feeling had been instinctive, and it found expression in several ways, each one of them partial, when taken alone, but obtaining their full effect in combination. It should be understood that the goal towards which events were moving all the time was the equalizing of the New Testament with the Old Testament.
(γ) Provisional Canon of New Testament (end of 2nd century).—By the last quarter of the 2nd century the conception of a Christian Bible in two parts, Old Testament and New Testament, may be said to be definitely established. Already at the beginning of this period Melito had drawn up a list of the twenty-two Books of the Old Covenant, i.e. of the documents to which the Old Covenant made its appeal. It was a very short step to the compiling of a similar list for the New Covenant, which by another very short step becomes the New Testament, by the side of the Old Testament. It is therefore not surprising, though a piece of great good fortune, that there should be still extant a list of the New Testament books that may be roughly dated from the end of the century. This list published by Muratori in 1740, and called after him “the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon,” is commonly believed to be of Roman origin and to be a translation from the Greek, though there are a few dissentients on both heads. The list recognized four Gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles of Paul, two epistles of John, Jude, Apocalypse of John and (as the text stands) of Peter; there is no mention of Hebrews or (apparently) of 3 John or Epistles of Peter, where it is possible—we cannot say more—that the silence as to 1 Peter is accidental; the Shepherd of Hermas on account of its date is admitted to private, but not public, reading; various writings associated with Marcion, Valentinus, Basilides and Montanus are condemned.
When the data of Fragm. Murat. are compared with those supplied by the writers of the last quarter of the 2nd and first of the 3rd centuries (Tatian, Theoph. Ant., Iren., Clem. Alex., Tert., Hippol.), it is seen that there is a fixed nucleus of writings that is acknowledged, with one exception, over all parts of the Christian world. The exception is the Syriac-speaking Church of Edessa and Mesopotamia. This Church at first acknowledged only the Gospel (in the form of Tatian’s Diatessaron), Acts and the Epistles of Paul. These seem to have been the only books translated immediately upon the foundation of the Edessan Church, though an edition of the separate Gospels must have followed either before or very soon afterwards. In all other churches the four Gospels, Acts and Epistles of Paul are fixed, with the addition in nearly all of 1 Peter, 1 John. The Apocalypse was generally accepted in the West. Hebrews and James were largely accepted in the East.
In the 3rd century the conspicuous figure is Origen (ob. 253), whose principal service was, through the vast range of his knowledge, his travels and his respect for tradition wherever he found it, to keep open the wider limits of the Canon. There is not one of our present books that he does not show himself inclined to accept, though he notes the doubts in regard to 2 Peter and 2 and 3 John. Later in the century Dionysius of Alexandria applies some acute criticism to justify the Alexandrian dislike of the Apocalypse.
(δ) The Final Canon (4th century).—Early in the 4th century Eusebius, as a historian reviews the situation (H.E. iii. 25. 1). He makes three classes; the first, including the Gospels, Acts, Epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John, is acknowledged; to these, if one likes, one may add the Apocalypse. The second class is questioned, but accepted by the majority; viz. James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John. The third class, of works to be decidedly rejected, contains the Acts of Paul, Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Barnabas, Didachē; to these some would add Apoc. of John, and others Ev. sec. Hebr. About the same time another line of tradition is represented by Lucian and the school of Antioch. The vernacular Church of Syria represented yet a third. In Egypt the uncertainty and laxity of usage was still greater. This state of things the great Athanasius set himself to correct, and he did so by laying down a list identical with our New Testament as we have it now. It was very largely the influence of Athanasius that finally turned the scale. He was peculiarly qualified for exercising this influence, as his long exile in the West made him familiar with Western usage, while he was also able to bring to the West the usage that he was trying to establish in the East. His efforts would be helped by Westerns, like Hilary and Lucifer, who were exiled to the East. The triumph of the Athanasian Canon, indeed, went along with the triumph of Nicene Christianity. And while the movement received its impulse from Athanasius, the power by which it was carried through and established was largely that of his powerful ally, the Church of Rome.
The final victory was no doubt a little delayed. Asia Minor and Syria were for most of the 4th century divided between the following of Eusebius (Cyril of Jerusalem in A.D. 348, Gregory of Nazianzus, the list of Apost. Can. 85, that attached to Can. 59 of the Council of Laodicea, c. A.D. 363) and the school of Antioch. The leading members of that school adopted 3 Epp. Cath. (James, 1 Peter, 1 John), Theod. Mops. omitting this group altogether, and the whole school omitting Apoc. Amphilochius of Iconium (c. 380) gives the two lists, Eusebian and Antiochene, as alternatives. The Eusebian list only wanted the complete admission of the Apocalypse to be identical with the Athanasian; and Athanasius had one stalwart supporter in Epiphanius (ob. 403).
The original Syriac list, as we have seen, had neither Epp. Cath. nor Apoc. The Peshito version, in regard to which Professor Burkitt’s view is now pretty generally accepted, that it was the work of Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, 411-433, added the 3 Epp. Cath. The remaining 4 Epp. Cath. and Apoc. were supplied in the Philoxenian version of 508, and retained in the Harklean revision of 616. But both these were Monophysite and of limited use, and the Nestorians still went on using the Peshito.
Meantime, in the West, an important Synod was held by Damasus at Rome in 382 which, under the dominant influence of Jerome and the Athanasian tradition, drew up a list corresponding to the present Canon. This was ratified by Pope Gelasius (492-496), and independently confirmed for the province of Africa by a series of Synods held at Hippo Regius in 393, and at Carthage in 397 and 419, under the lead of Augustine. The formal completion of the whole process in East and West was reserved for the Quinisextine Council (Council in Trullo) of 692. But even after that date irregularities occur from time to time, especially in the East.
In the fixing of the Canon, as in the fixing of doctrine, the decisive influence proceeded from the bishops and the theologians of the period 325-450. But behind these was the practice of the greater churches; and behind that again was not only the lead of a few distinguished individuals, but the instinctive judgment of the main body of the faithful. It was really this instinct that told in the end more than any process of quasi-scientific criticism. And it was well that it should be so, because the methods of criticism are apt to be, and certainly would have been when the Canon was formed, both faulty and inadequate, whereas instinct brings into play the religious sense as a whole; with spirit speaking to spirit rests the last word. Even this is not infallible; and it cannot be claimed that the Canon of the Christian Sacred Books is infallible. But experience has shown that the mistakes, so far as there have been mistakes, are unimportant; and in practice even these are rectified by the natural gravitation of the mind of man to that which it finds most nourishing and most elevating.
2. Texts and Versions.
The apparatus criticus of the New Testament consists, from one point of view, entirely of MSS.; but these MSS. may be divided into three groups: (A) Greek MSS., which in practice are known “The MSS,” (B) MSS. of versions in other languages representing translations from the Greek, (C) MSS. of other writings whether in Greek or other languages which contain quotations from the New Testament.
(A) Greek MSS.—These may be divided into classes according to style of writing, material, or contents. The first method distinguishes between uncial or majuscule, and cursive or minuscule; the second between papyrus, vellum or parchment, and paper (for further details see Manuscript and Palaeography); and the third distinguishes mainly between Gospels, Acts and Epistles (with or without the Apocalypse), New Testaments (the word in this connexion being somewhat broadly interpreted), lectionaries and commentaries.
Quite accurate statistics on this subject are scarcely attainable. Von Soden’s analysis of numbers, contents and date may be tabulated as follows, but it must be remembered that it reckons many small fragments as separate MSS., especially in the earlier centuries. It is also necessary to add that there is one small scrap of papyrus of the 3rd century containing a few verses of the 4th Gospel.
| New Testaments
Act and Epistles
Acts and Catholic Epp.
|Fig. 1.—Codex Vaticanus (From facsimile ed. by J. Cozza-Luzi, 1889-
|Fig. 2.—Codex Sinaiticus (From facsimile published by Palaeographical Soc. 1873.)|
|Fig. 3.—Codex Alexandrinus. (British Museum.)||Fig. 4.—From a probable Northumbrian Copy of the Codex Amiatinus. (British Museum.)|
|Fig. 5.—Pentateuch in Hebrew, 9th Century. (British Museum.)
||Fig. 6.—Vulgate. (From MS written for the monastery of Ste Marie de Parco, Louvain, A.D. 1148. British|
|Fig. 9.—The 42-Line Bible. (Printed at Mainz, 1452-6. British Museum.)
||Fig. 10.—Tyndale’s Quarto Edition of New Testament. (Printed by P. Quentel, Cologne, 1525,|
from the only remaining fragment, in British Museum.)
|Fig. 11.—First printed English Bible, 1535. (British Museum.)||Fig. 12.—First Edition of the Authorized Version, 1611. (British Museum.)|
This table says nothing about style of writing or material, but it may be taken as a general rule that MSS. earlier than the 13th century are on vellum and later than the 14th century are on paper, and that MSS. earlier than the 9th century are uncial and later than the 10th are minuscule. There are said to be 129 uncial MSS. of the New Testament (Kenyon, Textual Criticism of the New Testament, p. 45), but it is not easy to be quite accurate on the point.
Besides the MSS. mentioned in the table above, there are 281 MSS. containing commentaries on the Gospels, 169 on Acts and Epistles, 66 on the Apocalypse, 1072 lectionaries of the Gospels and 287 of Acts and Epistles, making a grand total of 3698 MSS. It must be remembered that the dating of the MSS., especially of minuscules, is by no means certain: Greek Palaeography is a difficult subject, and not all the MSS. have been investigated by competent palaeographers.
The notation of this mass of MSS. is very complicated. There are at present two main systems: (1) Since the time of Wetstein it has been customary to employ capital letters, at first of the Latin and latterly also of the Greek and Hebrew alphabets, to designate the uncials, and Arabic figures to designate the minuscules. Of this system there are two chief representatives, Gregory and Scrivener. These agree in the main, but differ for the more recently discovered minuscules. Gregory’s notation is more generally used, and Scrivener’s, though still followed by a few English scholars, is likely to become obsolete. This method of notation has various disadvantages. There are not enough letters to cover the uncials, the same letter has to serve for various fragments which are quite unconnected except by the accident of simultaneous discovery, and no information is given about the MS. referred to. (2) To remedy these drawbacks an entirely new system was introduced in 1902 by von Soden in his Die Schriften des neuen Testaments, Bd. 1, Abt. 1, pp. 33-40. He abandons the practice of making a distinction between uncial and minuscule, on the ground that for textual criticism the style of writing is less important than the date and contents of a MS. To indicate these he divided MSS. into three classes, (1) New Testaments (the Apocalypse being not regarded as a necessary part), (2) Gospels, and (3) Acts, Epistles and Apocalypse (the latter again being loosely regarded). These three classes he distinguished as δ (= διαθήκη), ε (= εὐαγγέλιον) and α (= ἀπόστολος). To these letters he attaches numbers arranged on a principle showing the century to which the MS. belongs and defining its contents more precisely. The number is determined thus:—MSS. of the δ and α classes from the earliest period to the 9th century inclusive are numbered 1 to 49; those of the 10th century 50 to 99; for the later centuries numbers of three figures are used, and the choice is made so that the figure in the hundreds’ place indicates the century, 1 meaning 11th century, 2 meaning 12th century, and so on; to all these numbers the appropriate letter, if it be δ or α, must be always prefixed, but if it be ε, only when there is any chance of ambiguity. In δ MSS. a distinction is made for those of the 11th and subsequent centuries by reserving 1 to 49 in each hundred for MSS. containing the Apocalypse, 50 to 99 for those which omit it. Similarly, in α MSS. a distinction is made according to their contents; the three-figure numbers are reserved for MSS. which contain Acts, Catholic Epistles and Pauline Epistles with or without the Apocalypse, the presence or absence of which is indicated as in the δ MSS.; but when a MS. consists of only one part a “1” is prefixed, thus making a four-figure number, and the precise part is indicated by the two last of the four figures; 00-19 means Acts and Catholic Epistles, 20-69 means Pauline Epistles and 70-99 means Apocalypse. In the case of ε MSS. 1-99 is used for the earliest MSS. up to the 9th century, and as this is insufficient, the available numbers are increased by prefixing a 0, and reckoning a second hundred from 01 to 099; 1000 to 1099 are MSS. of the 10th century; 100 to 199 are MSS. of the 11th century, 200-299 of the 12th century, and so on; as this is insufficient, the range of numbers is increased by prefixing a 1, and so obtaining another hundred, e.g. 1100 to 1199, and in the 12th and subsequent centuries, where even this is not enough, by passing on to the thousands and using 2000-2999 for the 12th century, 3000-3999 for the 13th and so on. In each case ε is prefixed whenever there is any chance of ambiguity. It is claimed that this system gives the maximum of information about a MS., and that it leaves room for the addition of any number of MSS. which are likely to be discovered. At present it has not seriously threatened the hold of Gregory’s notation on the critical world, but it will probably have to be adopted, at least to a large extent, when von Soden’s text is published.
It is neither possible nor desirable to give any description of most of these MSS., but the following are, critically, the most important.
(B) The Versions.—These are generally divided into (α) primary and (β) secondary; the former being those which represent translation made at an early period directly from Greek originals, and the latter being those which were made either from other versions or from late and unimportant Greek texts.
(C) Quotations in Patristic Writings.—The value of this source of evidence lies in the power which it gives us to date and localize texts. Its limitations are found in the inaccuracy of quotation of the writers, and often in the corrupt condition of their text. This latter point especially affects quotations which later scribes frequently forced into accord with the text they preferred.
3. Textual Criticism.
The problem which faces the textual critic of the New Testament is to reconstruct the original text from the materials supplied by the MSS., versions, and quotations in early writers, which have been described in the preceding section on the apparatus criticus. His object, therefore, is to discover and remove the various corruptions which have crept into the text, by the usual methods of the textual critic—the collection of material, the grouping of MSS. and other authorities, the reconstruction of archetypes, and the consideration of transcriptional and intrinsic probability. No book, however, presents such a complicated problem or such a wealth of material for the textual critic.
In a certain wide sense the textual criticism of the New Testament began as soon as men consciously made recensions and versions, and in this sense Origen, Jerome, Augustine and many other ecclesiastical writers might be regarded as textual critics. But in practice it is general, and certainly convenient, to regard their work rather as material for criticism, and to begin the history of textual criticism with the earliest printed editions which sought to establish a standard Greek Text. It is, of course, impossible here to give an account of all these, but the following may fairly be regarded as the epoch-making books from the beginning to the present time.
4. Higher Criticism.
The New Testament is a series of early Christian writings which the Church came to regard as canonical, i.e. they were placed in the same category as the Old Testament, the writings which the Christian had inherited from the Jewish Church. Just as the ancient Scriptures were considered to be the Word of God, so that what they contained was necessarily the true and inspired doctrine, so also the New Testament was available for proving the Church’s dogma. The assured canonicity of the whole New Testament resulted in its use by the medieval theologians, the Schoolmen, as a storehouse of proof-texts. Thus the New Testament seemed to exist in order to prove the Church’s conclusions, not to tell its own tale.
The Novum Instrumentum published by Erasmus in 1516 (see above, Textual Criticism) contained more than the mere Editio Princeps of the Greek text: Erasmus accompanied it with a Latin rendering of his own, in which Erasmus. he aimed at giving the meaning of the Greek without blindly following the conventional phraseology of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only form in which the New Testament had been current in western Europe for centuries. This rendering of Erasmus, together with his annotations and prefaces to the several books, make his editions the first great monument of modern Biblical study. Medieval Bibles contain short prefaces by St Jerome and others. The stereotyped information supplied in these prefaces was drawn from various sources: Erasmus distinguishes, e.g., between the direct statements in the Acts and the inferences which may be drawn from incidental allusions in the Pauline Epistles, or from the statements of ancient non-canonical writers. This discrimination of sources is the starting-point of scientific criticism.
The early champions of Church reform in the beginning of the 16th century found in the Bible their most trustworthy weapon. The picture of Apostolical Christianity found in the New Testament offered indeed a glaring The Reformers. contrast to the papal system of the later middle ages. Moreover, some of the “authorities” used by the Schoolmen had been discovered by the New Learning of the Renaissance to be no authorities at all, such as the writings falsely attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite. When, therefore, the breach came, and the struggle between reformers and conservatives within the undivided Church was transformed into a struggle between Protestants and Romanists, it was inevitable that the authority which in the previous centuries had been ascribed to the Church should be transferred by the Reformed Churches to the Bible. “The Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants” did really express the watchword of the anti-Romanist parties, especially towards the close of the acuter struggle. At the beginning of the movement the New Testament itself had been freely criticized. Luther, like his countrymen of to-day, judged the contents of the New Testament by the light of his leading convictions; and in his German translation, which occupies the same place in Germany as the Authorized Version of 1611 does in English-speaking lands, he even placed four of the books (Hebrews, James, Jude, Apocalypse) in an appendix at the end, with prefaces explanatory of this drastic act of criticism. But though we may trace a real affiliation between the principles of Luther and modern German critical study—notably in the doctrines of the Gospel within the Gospel and of the residual Essence of Christianity—Luther’s discriminations were in the 17th century ignored in practice.
From cover to cover the whole New Testament was regarded at the beginning of the 18th century by almost all Protestants as the infallible revelation of the true religion. The doctrines of Christianity, and in many communities Influence of textual criticism. the customs of the Church, were held to be inferences from the inspired text of the Scriptures. The first serious blow to this view came from the study of textual criticism. The editions of Mill (1707) and of Wetstein (1751) proved once for all that variations in the text, many of them serious, had existed from the earliest times. It was evident, therefore, that the true authority of the New Testament could not be that of a legal code which is definite in all its parts. More important still was the growing perception of the general uniformity of nature, which had forced itself with increasing insistence upon men’s minds as the study of the natural sciences progressed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The miracles of the New Testament, which had formerly been received as bulwarks of Christianity, now appeared as difficulties needing explanation. Furthermore, the prevailing philosophies of the 18th century tended to demand that a real divine revelation should be one which expressed itself in a form convincing to the reason of the average plain man, whatever his predispositions might be; it was obvious that the New Testament did not wholly conform to this standard.
But if the New Testament be not itself the direct divine revelation in the sense of the 18th century, the question still remains, how we are to picture the true history of the rise of Christianity, and what its true meaning is. Rationalists. This is the question which has occupied the theologians of the 19th and 20th centuries. Perhaps the most significant event from which to date the modern period is the publication by Lessing in 1774-1777 of the “Wolfenbüttel Fragments,” i.e. H. S. Reimarus’ posthumous attack on Christianity, a work which showed that the mere study of the New Testament is not enough to compel belief in an unwilling reader. Lessing’s publication also helped to demonstrate the weakness of the older rationalist position, a position which really belongs to the 18th century, though its best-remembered exponent, Dr H. E. G. Paulus, only died in 1851. The characteristic of the rationalists was the attempt to explain away the New Testament miracles as coincidences or naturally occurring events, while at the same time they held as tenaciously as possible to the accuracy of the letter of the New Testament narratives. The opposite swing Strauss. of the pendulum appears in D. F. Strauss: in his Leben Jesu (1833) he abandons the shifts and expedients by which the rationalists eliminated the miraculous from the Gospel stories, but he abandons also their historical character. According to Strauss the fulfilments of prophecy in the New Testament arise from the Christians’ belief that the Christian Messiah must have fulfilled the predictions of the prophets, and the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament either originate in the same way or are purely mythical embodiments of Christian doctrines. The main objection to this presentation, as also to that of the rationalists, is that it is very largely based not upon the historical data, but upon a pre-determined theory. Granted the philosophical basis, the criticism practised Tübingen school. upon the New Testament by Paulus and Strauss follows almost automatically. Herein lies the permanent importance of the work of Ferdinand Christian Baur, professor of theology at Tübingen from 1826 to 1860. The corner-stone of his reconstruction of early Christian history is derived not so much from philosophical principles as from a fresh study of the documents. Starting from Galatians and I Corinthians, which are obviously the genuine letters of a Christian leader called Paul to his converts, Baur accepted 2 Corinthians and Romans as the work of the same hand. From the study of these contemporary and genuine documents, he elaborated the theory that the earliest Christianity, the Christianity of Jesus and the original apostles, was wholly Judaistic in tone and practice. Paul, converted to belief in Jesus as Messiah after the Crucifixion, was the first to perceive that for Christians Judaism had ceased to be binding. Between him and the older apostles arose a long and fierce controversy, which was healed only when at last his disciples and the Judaizing disciples of the apostles coalesced into the Catholic Church. This only occurred, according to Baur, early in the 2nd century, when the strife was finally allayed and forgotten. The various documents which make up the New Testament were to be dated mainly by their relation to the great dispute. The Apocalypse was a genuine work of John the son of Zebedee, one of the leaders of the Judaistic party, but most of the books were late, at least in their present form. The Acts, Baur thought, were written about A.D. 140, after the memory of the great controversy had almost passed away. All four Gospels also were to be placed in the 2nd century, though that according to Matthew retained many features unaltered from the Judaistic original upon which it was based.
The Tübingen school founded by Baur dominated the theological criticism of the New Testament during a great part of the 19th century and it still finds some support. The main position was not so much erroneous as one-sided. Later views. The quarrel between St Paul and his opponents did not last so long as Baur supposed, and the great catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem effectually reduced thorough-going Judaistic Christianity into insignificance from a.d. 70 onwards. Moreover, St Paul’s converts do not seem to have adopted consistent “Paulinism” as a religious philosophy. St Paul was an emancipated Jew, but his converts were mostly Greeks, and the permanent significance of St Paul’s theories of law and faith only began to be perceived after his letters had been collected together and had been received into the Church’s canon. All these considerations tend to make the late dates proposed by Baur for the greater part of the New Testament books unnecessary; the latest investigators, notably Professor A. Harnack of Berlin, accept dates that are not far removed from the ancient Christian literary tradition.
Literary criticism of the Gospels points to a similar conclusion. A hundred years’ study of the synoptic problem, i.e. the causes which make the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke at once so much alike and so different, has resulted in the demonstration of the priority of Mark, which “was known to Matthew and Luke in the same state and with the same contents as we have it now.” This Gospel may be dated a very few years after A.D. 70. Luke and Matthew appear to have been published between 80 and 100. Besides the Gospel of Mark these Evangelists made use of another document, now lost, which contained many sayings of Jesus and some narratives not found in Mark. This document is by many scholars identified with the “Logia,” mentioned by Papias (Eusebius, Ch. Hist. in. 39) as being the work of Matthew the Apostle, but the identification is not certain.
The Johannine writings, i.e. the Fourth Gospel and the three Epistles of John, represent the view of Christ and Christianity taken by a Christian teacher, who seems to have lived and written in Asia Minor at the close of the 1st century A.D. The value of the Fourth Gospel as a narrative of events is a matter of dispute, but the view of the personality of Jesus Christ set forth in it is unquestionably that which the Church has accepted.
The discoveries of papyri in Upper Egypt during recent years, containing original letters written by persons of various classes and in some cases contemporary with the Epistles of the New Testament, have immensely increased our knowledge of the Greek of the period, and have cleared up not a few difficulties of language and expression. More important still is the application of Semitic study to elucidate the Gospels. It is idle indeed to rewrite the Gospel narratives in the Aramaic dialect spoken by Christ and the apostles, but the main watchwords of the Gospel theology—phrases like “the Kingdom of God,” “the World to come,” the “Father in Heaven,” “the Son of Man,”—can be more or less surely reconstructed from Jewish writings, and their meaning gauged apart from the special significance which they received in Christian hands. This line of investigation has been specially followed by Professor G. Dalman in his Worte Jesu. The study of the Semitic elements in early Christianity is less advanced than the study of the Greek elements, so that it is doubtless from the Semitic side that further progress in the criticism of the New Testament may be expected.
5. New Testament Chronology.
The subject of the chronology of the New Testament falls naturally into two distinct sections—the chronology of the Gospels, that is, of the life of Christ; and the chronology of the Acts, that is, of the apostolic age.
The Chronology of the Gospels.
The data group themselves round three definite points and the intervals between them: the definite points are the Nativity, the Baptism and the Crucifixion; the age of Christ at the time of the Baptism connects the first two points, and the duration of his public ministry connects the second and third. The results obtained under the different heads serve mutually to test, and thereby to correct or confirm, one another.
1. The date of the Nativity as fixed according to our common computation of Anni Domini (first put forward by Dionysius Exiguus at Rome early in the 6th century) has long been recognized to be too late. The fathers of the primitive church had been nearer the truth with the years 3 or 2 B.C. (see Irenaeus, Haer. 111. xxi. 3 [xxiv. 2]; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. i. 21, p. 147; Hippolytus, in Danielem, iv. ed. Bonwetsch, p. 242; [Tertullian], adv. Judaeos, 8). What may be called the received chronology during the last two centuries has pushed the date farther back to 4 B.C. But the considerations now to be adduced make it probable that the true date is earlier still.
(a) Evidence of St Matthew’s Gospel (i. 18-ii. 22).—The birth of Christ took place before the death of Herod, and the evidence of Josephus fixes the death of Herod, with some approach to certainty, in the early spring of 4 B.C. Josephus, indeed, while he tells us that Herod died not long before Passover, nowhere names the exact year; but he gives four calculations which serve to connect Herod’s death with more or less known points, namely, the length of Herod’s own reign, both from his de jure and from his de facto accession, and the length of the reigns of two of his successors, Archelaus and Herod Philip, to the date of their deposition and death respectively. The various calculations are not quite easy to harmonize, but the extent of choice for the year of Herod’s death is limited to the years 4 and 3 B.C., with a very great preponderance of probability in favour of the former. How long before this the Nativity should be placed the Gospel does not enable us to say precisely, but as Herod’s decree of extermination included all infants up to two years of age, and as a sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt of unknown length intervened between the massacre and Herod’s death, it is clear that it is at least possible, so far as the evidence of this Gospel goes, that the birth of Christ preceded Herod’s death by as much as two or three years. What is thus shown to be possible would, of course, be necessary if we went on, with the astronomer Kepler, to identify the star of the Magi with the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn which occurred, in the constellation Pisces, in May, October and December of 7 B.C.
(b) Evidence of St Luke’s Gospel (ii. 1-8).-The birth of Christ took place at the time of a general census of the empire ordered by Augustus: “it was the first census, and was made at the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Against this account it has been urged that we know that the governorship of Syria from 10 or 9 B.C. down to and after Herod’s death was held successively by M. Titius, C. Sentius Saturninus, and P. Quintilius Varus; and further, that when Judaea became a Roman province on the deposition of Archelaus in A.D. 6, Quirinius was governor of Syria, and did carry out an elaborate census. The notice in the Gospel, it is suggested, grew out of a confused recollection of the later (and only historical) census, and is devoid of any value whatever. At the other extreme Sir W. M. Ramsay (Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?, 1898, pp. 149 ff.) defends the exact accuracy of St Luke’s “first census” as witnessing to the (otherwise of course unknown) introduction into Syria of the periodic fourteen years’ census which the evidence of papyri has lately established for Egypt, at least from A.D. 20 onwards. Reckoning back from A.D. 20, the periodic census should fall in 9 b.c., but Ramsay alleges various causes for delay, which would have postponed the actual execution of the census till 7 B.C., and supposes that Quirinius was an imperial commissioner specially appointed to carry it out. The truth seems to rest midway between these extremes. St Luke’s statement of a general census is in all probability erroneous, and the introduction of the name Quirinius appears to be due to confusion with the census of A.D. 6. But the confusion in question would only be possible, or at any rate likely, if there really was a census at the time of the Nativity; and it is no more improbable that Herod should have held, or permitted to be held, a local census than that Archelaus of Cappadocia in the reign of Tiberius (Tacitus, Ann. vi. 41) should have taken a census of his own native state “after the Roman manner.” But St Luke’s account, when the name of Quirinius is subtracted from it, ceases to contain any chronological evidence.
(c) Evidence of Tertullian.—Strangely enough, however, the missing name of the governor under whom the census of the Nativity was carried out appears to be supplied by an author who wrote more than a century after St Luke, and has by no means a good reputation for historical trustworthiness. Tertullian, in fact (adv. Marcionem, iv. 19), employs against Marcion’s denial of the true humanity of Christ the argument that it was well known that Sentius Saturninus carried out a census under Augustus in Judaea, by consulting which the family and relationships of Christ could have been discovered. This Saturninus was the middle one of the three governors of Syria named above, and as his successor Varus must have arrived by the middle of 6 B.C. at latest (for coins of Varus are extant of the twenty-fifth year of the era of Actium), his own tenure must have fallen about 8 and 7 B.C., and his census cannot be placed later than 7 or 7-6 B.C. The independence of Tertullian’s information about this census is guaranteed by the mere fact of his knowledge of the governor’s name; and if there was a census about that date, it would be unreasonable not to identify it with St Luke’s census of the Nativity.
The traditional Western day for the Christmas festival, 25th December, goes back as far as Hippolytus, loc. cit.; the traditional Eastern day, 6th January, as far as the Basilidian Gnostics (but in their case only as a celebration of the Baptism), mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, loc. cit.
2. The interval between the Nativity and the Baptism.
Evidence of St Luke’s Gospel (iii. 23).—At the time of his baptism Jesus was ἀρχόμενος ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα, of which words two opposite misinterpretations must be avoided: (i.) ἀρχόμενος does not mean (as Valentinian interpreters thought, Iren. 11. xxii. 5 [xxxiii. 3]; so also Epiphanius, Haer. li. 16) “beginning to be thirty years” in the sense of “not yet quite thirty,” but “at the beginning of His ministry,” as in Luke xxiii. 5; Acts i. 22, x. 37; (ii.) ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα does not mean “on attaining the full age of thirty, before which he could not have publicly taught,” for if there was by Jewish custom or tradition any minimum age for a teacher, it was not thirty, but forty (Bab. Talm. ed. 1715, fol. 19 b; Iren. loc cit.). St Luke’s phrase is a general one, “about thirty years old,” and cannot be so pressed as to exclude some latitude in either direction.
3. The date of the Baptism.
(a) Evidence of St Luke’s Gospel (iii. 1).—A terminus a quo for the Baptism is the synchronism of the commencement of the Baptist’s public ministry with the fifteenth year of the rule (ἡγεμονία) of Tiberius. Augustus died on 19th August A.D. 14, and, reckoned from that point, Tiberius’s fifteenth year might be, according to different methods of calculation, either A.D. 28, or 28-29, or 29. But any such result would be difficult to reconcile with the results yielded by other lines of investigation in this article; among alternative views the choice seems to lie between the following:—(i.) The years of Tiberius are here reckoned from some earlier starting-point than the death of his predecessor—probably from the grant to him of co-ordinate authority with Augustus over the provinces made in A.D. 11 (see, for the parallel with the case of Vespasian and Titus, Ramsay, St Paul the Roman Traveller, p. 387), so that the fifteenth year would be roughly A.D. 25; or (ii.) St Luke has made here a second error in chronology, caused perhaps in this case by reckoning back from the Crucifixion, and only allowing one year to the ministry of Christ.
(b) Evidence of St John’s Gospel (ii. 13, 20).—A terminus ad quem for the Baptism is the synchronism of the first Passover mentioned after it with the forty-sixth year of the building of Herod’s Temple. Herod began the Temple in the eighteenth year of his reign, probably 20-19 B.C., and the Passover of the forty-sixth year is probably that of A.D. 27. While too much stress must not be laid on a chain of reasoning open to some uncertainty at several points, it is difficult to suppose with Loisy, Quatrième Évangile, 1903, p. 293, that the number was intended by the evangelist as purely figurative, and is therefore destitute of all historical meaning.
On the whole, the Baptism of Christ should probably be placed in A.D. 26-27; and as the Nativity was placed in 7-6 B.C. (at latest), this would make the age of Christ at his Baptism to be about thirty-two, which tallies well enough with St Luke’s general estimate.
4. The interval between the Baptism and the Crucifixion, or, in other words, the duration of the public ministry of Christ.
(a) Evidence of the Synoptic Tradition and of St Mark’s Gospel (ii. 23, vi. 39, xiv. 1).—The order of events in the primitive synoptic tradition appears to be faithfully reproduced in St Mark; and if this order is chronological, Christ’s ministry lasted at least two years, since the plucking of the ears of corn (April-June) marks a first spring; the feeding of the five thousand when the grass was fresh green (χλωρός: about March), a second; and the Passover of the Crucifixion a third: and these three points are so far removed from one another in the narrative that the conclusion would hold, even if the general arrangement in St Mark were only roughly, and not minutely, chronological. On the other hand, it may be true that an impression of a briefer period of ministry naturally results, and in early generations did actually result, from the synoptic account considered as a whole.
(b) Evidence of St Luke’s Gospel (ix. 51-xix. 28 compared with iv. 14-ix. 50; iv. 19).—Still stronger is the impression of brevity suggested by St Luke. The second and larger half of the narrative of the ministry is introduced at ix. 51 with the words, “It came to pass as the days of His assumption were coming to the full, He set His face firmly to go to Jerusalem,” under which phrase the evangelist cannot have meant to include more than a few months, perhaps not more than a few weeks; so that even if the earlier and shorter half of the account, which describes a purely Galilean ministry (“Judaea” in iv. 44, if it is the true reading, means Judaea in the sense of Palestine), is to be spread over a longer period of time, the combined narrative can hardly have been planned on the scale of more than a single year. St Luke himself may have understood literally, like so many of his readers in ancient times, the reference which he records to the “acceptable year of the Lord” (iv. 19 = Isaiah lxi. 2): see, too, above, 3 (a) ad fin.
(c) Evidence of St John’s Gospel (ii. 13, “the Passover of the Jews was near,” and 23, “He was in Jerusalem at the Passover at the feast”; v. 1, “after these things was a feast [or ‘the feast’] of the Jews”; vi. 4, “and the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near”; vii. 2, “and the feast of the Jews, the Tabernacles, was near”; x. 22, “at that time the feast of dedication took place at Jerusalem”; xi. 55, “and the Passover of the Jews was near”: besides iv. 35, “say ye not that there is yet a period of four months and harvest cometh? behold, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see the fields that they are white to harvest”). This catena of time-references is of course unique in the Gospels as a basis for a chronology of the ministry; and it is not reasonable to doubt (with Loisy, loc. cit., who suggests that the aim was to produce an artificial correspondence of a three and a half years’ ministry with the half-week of Daniel; but many and diverse as are the early interpretations of Daniel’s seventy weeks, no one before Eusebius thought of connecting the half-week with the ministry), that the evangelist intended these notices as definite historical data, possibly for the correction of the looser synoptic narratives and of the erroneous impressions to which they had given rise. Unfortunately, difficulties, either (i.) of reading, or (ii.) of interpretation, or (iii.) of arrangement, have been raised with regard to nearly all of them; and these difficulties must be briefly noticed here.
Not only do the fourth and second Gospels thus agree in indications of a two years’ ministry, but the notes of the middle spring of the three (John vi. 4; Mark vi. 39) both belong to the feeding of the 5000, one of the few points of actual contact Detween the two Gospels.
The question, however, may still be raised, whether these time-indications of the two Gospels are exhaustive, whether (that is) two years, and two years only, are to be allotted to the ministry. Irenaeus (ii. xxii. 3-6 [xxxiii. 1-4]), in favour of a ministry of not less than ten years, appeals (i.) to the tradition of Asia Minor; (ii.) to the record in St John that Christ, who was thirty years old at the time of his baptism, was addressed by the Jews as “not yet [i.e. nearly] fifty years old”: but both his arguments are probably derived from a single source, Papias’s interpretation of John viii. 57. With this exception, however, all ancient writers, whether they enumerated two or three or four Passovers in the Gospel history, believed that the enumeration was exhaustive; and their belief appears correctly to represent the mind of the author of the Fourth Gospel, seeing that his various notes of time were probably in intentional contrast to the looser synoptic accounts. Moreover, the wide currency in early times of the tradition of the single-year ministry (Ptolemaeus, ap. Iren, loc. cit.; Clementine Homilies, xvii. 19; Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 145, vi. 279; Julius Africanus, ap. Routh, Rell. Sacr. ii. 240, 306; Hippolytus, Paschal Cycle and Chronicle; Origen, in Levit. Hom. ix. 5, de Principiis, iv. 5) becomes more difficult to account for the farther it is removed from the actual facts.
5. The date of the Crucifixion.
(a) The Roman Governor.—Pontius Pilate was on his way back to Rome, after ten years of office, when Tiberius died on the 16th March A.D. 37 (Josephus, Ant. XVIII. ii. 2, iv. 2). Luke xiii. 1, xxiii. 12, show that he was not a newcomer at the time of the Crucifixion. For the Crucifixion “under Pontius Pilate” the Passover of A.D. 28 is therefore the earliest possible and the Passover of A.D. 36 the latest.
(b) The Jewish High-Priest.—Caiaphas was appointed before Pilate’s arrival, and was deposed at a Passover apparently not later than that of the year of Herod Philip’s death, A.D. 34 (Josephus, Ant. XVIII. ii. 2, iv. 3-v. 3). The Crucifixion at some previous Passover would then fall not later than A.D. 33.
(c) The Day of the Week.—The Resurrection on “the first day of the week” (Sunday) was “on the third day” after the Crucifixion; and that “the third day” implies an interval of only two days hardly needed to be shown, but has been shown to demonstration in Field’s Notes on the Translation of the New Testament (on Matt. xvi. 21). The Crucifixion was therefore on a Friday in some year between A.D. 28 and 33 inclusive.
(d) The Day of the Jewish Month Nisan.—The Passover was kept at the full moon of the lunar month Nisan, the first of the Jewish ecclesiastical year; the Paschal lambs were slain on the afternoon of the 14th Nisan, and the Passover was eaten after sunset the same day—which, however, as the Jewish day began at sunset, was by their reckoning the early hours of the 15th Nisan; the first fruits (of the barley harvest) were solemnly offered on the 16th. The synoptic Gospels appear to place the Crucifixion on the 15th, since they speak of the Last Supper as a Passover; St John’s Gospel, on the other hand (xiii. 1, 29, xviii. 28), distinctly implies that the feast had not yet taken place, and thus makes the Crucifixion fall on the 14th. Early Christian tradition is unanimous on this side; either the 14th is mentioned, or the Crucifixion is made the antitype of the slaughter of the Paschal Lamb (and the Resurrection of the first fruits), in the following authorities anterior to A.D. 235: St Paul, 1 Cor. v. 7, xv. 20; Quartodecimans of Asia Minor, who observed the Christian Pascha on the “14th,” no matter on what day of the week it fell; Claudius Apollinaris, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, all three quoted in the Paschal Chronicle; Irenaeus (apparently) iv. x. 1 [xx. 1]; [Tertullian] adv. Judaeos, 8; Africanus, in Routh, Rell. Sacr. ii. 297. The Crucifixion, then, should be placed rather on the 14th than on the 15th of Nisan.
These four lines of inquiry have shown that the Crucifixion fell on Friday, Nisan 14 (rather than 15), in one of the six years 28-33 A.D.; and therefore, if it is possible to discover (i.) exactly which moon or month was reckoned each year as the moon or month of Nisan, and (ii.) exactly on what day that particular moon or month was reckoned as beginning, it will, of course, be possible to tell in which of these years Nisan 14 fell on a Friday. To neither question can an answer be given in terms so precise as to exclude some latitude, but to both with sufficient exactness to rule out at once three of the six years. (i.) The difficulty with regard to the month is to know how the commencement of the Jewish year was fixed—in what years an extra month was intercalated before Nisan. If the Paschal full moon was, as in later Christian times, the first after the spring equinox, the difficulty would be reduced to the question on what day the equinox was reckoned. If, on the other hand, it was, as in ancient Jewish times, the first after the earliest ears of the barley harvest would be ripe, it would have varied with the forwardness or backwardness of the season from year to year. (ii.) The difficulty with regard to the day is, quite similarly, to know what precise relation the first day of the Jewish month bore to the astronomical new moon. In later Christian times the Paschal month was calculated from the astronomical new moon; in earlier Jewish times all months were reckoned to begin at the first sunset when the new moon was visible, which in the most favourable circumstances would be some hours, and in the most unfavourable three days, later than the astronomical new moon.
Direct material for answering the question when and how far astronomical calculations replaced simple observations as the basis of the Jewish calendar is not forthcoming. Jewish traditions represented the Sanhedrin as retaining to the end its plenary power over the calendar, and as still fixing the first day of every month and the first month of every year. But as it is quite inconceivable that the Jews of the Dispersion should not have known beforehand at what full moon they were to present themselves at Jerusalem for the Passover, it must be assumed as true in fact, whether or no it was true in theory, that the old empirical methods must have been qualified, at least partially, by permanent, that is in effect by astronomical rules. Exactly what modifications were first made in the system under which each month began by simple observation of the new moon we do not know, and opinions are not agreed as to the historical value of the rabbinical traditions; but probably the first step in the direction of astronomical precision would be the rule that no month could consist of less than twenty-nine or more than thirty days—to which appears to have been added, but at what date is uncertain, the further rule that Adar, the month preceding Nisan, was always to be limited to twenty-nine. In the same way the beginning of the Jewish year according to the state of the harvest was supplanted by some more fixed relation to the solar year. But this relation was not, it would seem, regulated by the date, real or supposed, of the equinox. Christian controversialists from Anatolius of Laodicea (A.D. 277) onwards accused the Jews of disregarding the (Christian) equinoctial limit, and of sometimes placing the Paschal full moon before it; and it is possible that in the time of Christ the 14th of Nisan might have fallen as far back as the 17th of March. In the following table the first column gives the terminus paschalis, or 14th of the Paschal moon, according to the Christian calendar; the second gives the 14th, reckoned from the time of the astronomical new moon of Nisan; the third the 14th, reckoned from the probable first appearance of the new moon at sunset. Alternative moons are given for A.D. 29, according as the full moon falling about the 18th of March is or is not reckoned the proper Paschal moon.
|Sat. Mar. 27
Th. Mar. 17
F. Ap. 15
Tu. Ap. 4
Sat. Mar. 24
Sat. Ap. 12
W. Ap. 1
Ap. 3 or 4
It will be seen at once that Friday cannot have fallen on Nisan 14th in any of the three years A.D. 28, 31 and 32. The choice is narrowed down to A.D. 29, Friday, 18th March (Friday, 15th April, would no doubt be too early even for the 14th of Nisan); A.D. 30, Friday 7th April; and A.D. 33, Friday, 3rd April.
(e) The Civil Year (consuls, or regnal years of Tiberius) in early Christian tradition. It is not a priori improbable that the year of the central event from which the Christian Church dated her own existence should have been noted in the apostolic age and handed down to the memory of succeeding generations; and the evidence does go some way to suggest that we have in favour of A.D. 29, the consulate of the two Gemini (15th or 16th year of Tiberius), a body of tradition independent of the Gospels and ancient, if not primitive, in origin.
The earliest witness, indeed, who can be cited for a definite date for the crucifixion gave not 29, but 33 A.D. The pagan chronicler, Phlegon, writing in the reign of Hadrian, noted under Olympiad 202.4 (= A.D. 32-33), besides a great earthquake in Bithynia, an eclipse so remarkable that it became night “at the sixth hour of the day.” The eclipse meant is, presumably, that of the Crucifixion (so Origen, contra Celsum,, ii. 33 [but see in Matt. 134, Delarue iii. 922], Eusebius’s Chronicle Tib. 19 [= A.D. 33], Anon, in Cramer’s Catena in Matt. p. 237), but as the notice of it was clearly derived by Phlegon, pagan as he was, directly or indirectly from the Gospel narrative, there is no reason at all to ascribe any independent value to the date. Phlegon may have had grounds for dating the Bithynian earthquake in that year, and have brought the dateless portent into connexion with the dated one. Eusebius adopted and popularized this date, which fell in with his own system of Gospel chronology, but of the year 33 as the date of the Passion there is no vestige in Christian tradition before the 4th century.
The only date, in fact, which has any real claim to represent Christian tradition independent of the Gospels, is the year 29. Tiberius 15 is given by Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 147; Origen, Hom. in Jerem. xiv. 13; cf. c. Cels. iv. 22. Tiberius 16 by Julius Africanus (Routh, Rell. Sacr. ii. 301-304), and pseudo-Cyprian de pascha computus (A.D. 243), § 20. The consulship of the two Gemini by Lactantius, Div. Inst. iv. x. 18, and (Lactantius?) de morte pers. § 2; the consulship of the two Gemini = Tiberius 18 by Hippolytus, Comm. in Danielem, iv. (ed. Bonwetsch, p. 242); the consulship of the two Gemini = Tiberius 15 by [Tertullian] adv. Judaeos, § 8; the consulship of the two Gemini = Tiberius 15 (al. 18 or 19) = Ol. 202.4 [this last is a later interpolation from Eusebius] in the Acts of Pilate. Other methods of expressing the year 29 appear in Hippolytus’s Paschal Cycle and Chronicle, and in the Abgar legend (ap. Eusebius, H.E. i. 13). No doubt it would be possible to explain Tiberius 16 as a combination of Luke iii. 1 with a one-year ministry, and even to treat Tiberius 15 as an unintelligent repetition from St Luke—though the omission to allow a single year for the ministry would be so strange as to be almost unintelligible—but the date by the consuls has an independent look about it, and of its extreme antiquity the evidence gives two indications: (i.) Hippolytus’s Commentary on Daniel (now generally dated c. A.D. 200) combines it with an apparently inconsistent date, Tiberius 18; the latter is clearly his own combination of the length of the ministry (he says in the same passage that Christ suffered in his 33rd year) with Luke iii. 1—the consulship must have been taken from tradition without regard to consistency; (ii.) the names of the Gemini are divergently given in our oldest authorities; in [Tert.] adv. Judaeos correctly as Rubellius Geminus and Fufius (or Rufius) Geminus, but in Hippolytus and the Acts of Pilate as Rufus and Rubellio. But if the tradition of the consulship was thus, it would seem, already an old one about the year 200, there is at least some reason to conclude that trustworthy information in early Christian circles pointed, independently of the Gospels, to the year 29 as that of the Crucifixion.
(f) The Civil Month and Day.—The earliest known calculations, by Basilidian Gnostics, quoted in Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 147, gave alternative dates, Phamenoth 25, Pharmuthi 25, Pharmuthi 19; that is, according to the fixed Alexandrine calendar of B.C. 26, 21st March, 20th April, 14th April; in the older, not wholly superseded, Egyptian calendar the equivalents with Roman days varied from year to year. But in all probability these dates were only one development of those speculations in the region of numbers to which Gnosticism was so prone; and in any case to look for genuine traditions among Egyptian Gnostics, or even in the church of Alexandria, would be to misread the history of Christianity in the 2nd century. Such traditions must be found, if anywhere, in Palestine and Syria, in Asia Minor, in Rome, not in Egypt; within the Church, not among the Gnostics. The date which makes the most obvious claim to satisfy these conditions would be the 25th of March, as given by Hippolytus, [Tert.] adv. Judaeos, and the Acts of Pilate (according to all extant MSS. and versions, but see below), locc. citt.—the same three authorities who bear the earliest witness for the consuls of the year of the Crucifixion—and by many later writers. It cannot be correct, since no full moon occurs near it in any of the possible years; yet it must be very early, too early to be explained with Dr Salmon (Dictionary of Christian Biography, iii. 92Italic textb), as originated by Hippolytus’s Paschal cycle of A.D. 221. Now Epiphanius (Haer. l. 1) had seen copies of the Acts of Pilate in which the day given was not 25th March, but A.D. xv. kal. Apr. (= 18th March); and if this was the primitive form of the tradition, it is easy to see how 25th March could have grown out of it, since the 18th would from comparatively early times, in the East at any rate, have been thought impossible as falling before the equinox, and no substitution would be so natural as that of the day week, Friday, 25th March. But Friday, 18th March, A.D. 29, was one of the three alternative dates for the Crucifixion which on astronomical and calendar grounds were found (see above, 5d) to be possible.
Thus A.D. 29 is the year, the 18th of March is the day, to which Christian tradition (whatever value, whether much or little, be ascribed to it) appears to point. Further, the Baptism was tentatively placed in A.D. 26-27; the length of the ministry was fixed, with some approach to certainty, at between two and three years, and here too the resultant date for the Crucifixion would be the Passover of A.D. 29.
To sum up: the various dates and intervals, to the approximate determination of which this article has been devoted, do not claim separately more than a tentative and probable value. But it is submitted that their harmony and convergence give them some additional claim to acceptance, and at any rate do something to secure each one of them singly—the Nativity in 7-6 B.C., the Baptism in A.D. 26-27, the Crucifixion in A.D. 29—from being to any wide extent in error.
The Chronology of the Apostolic Age.
The chronology of the New Testament outside the Gospels may be defined for the purposes of this article as that of the period between the Crucifixion in A.D. 29 (30) on the one hand, and on the other the persecution of Nero in A.D. 64 and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Of the events in Christian history which fall between these limits it must be admitted that there are many which with our present information we cannot date with exactness. But the book of Acts, our only continuous authority for the period, contains two synchronisms with secular history which can be dated with some pretence to exactness and constitute fixed points by help of which a more or less complete chronology can be constructed for at least the latter half of the apostolic age. These are the death of Herod Agrippa I. (xii. 23) and the replacement of Felix by Festus (xxiv. 27).
1. The death of Herod Agrippa I. This prince, son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, was made (i.) king over the tetrarchy which had been Herod Philip’s, “not many days” after the accession of Gaius, 16th of March A.D. 37; (ii.) ruler of the tetrarchy of Antipas, in A.D. 39-40; (iii.) ruler of the whole of Palestine (with Abilene), on the accession of Claudius at the beginning of A.D. 41. Josephus’s Jewish Wars and Antiquities differ by one in the number of years they allot to his reign over the tetrarchies (the former work says three years, the latter four), but agree in the more important datum that he reigned three years more after the grant from Claudius, which would make the latest limit of his death the spring of A.D. 44. The Antiquities also place his death in the seventh year of his reign, which would be A.D. 43-44. On the other hand, coins whose genuineness there is no apparent reason to doubt are extant of Agrippa’s ninth year; and this can only be reconciled even with A.D. 44 by supposing that he commenced reckoning a second year of his reign on Nisan 1, A.D. 37, so that his ninth would run from Nisan 1, A.D. 44. On the balance of evidence the only year which can possibly reconcile all the data appears to be A.D. 44 after Nisan, so that it will have been at the Passover of that year that St Peter’s arrest and deliverance took place.
After Agrippa’s death Judaea was once more governed by procurators, of whom Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander ruled from A.D. 44 to 48; the third, Cumanus, was appointed in A.D. 48; and the fourth, Felix, in A.D. 52. Under Tiberius Alexander, i.e. in A.D. 46 or 47, occurred the great famine which Agabus had foretold, and in which the Antiochene church sent help to that of Jerusalem by the ministry of Barnabas and Saul (Acts xi. 30, xii. 25). Thus the earliest date at which the commencement of the first missionary journey (Acts xiii. 4) can be placed is the spring of A.D. 47. The journey extended from Salamis “throughout the whole island” of Cyprus as far as Paphos, and on the mainland from Pamphylia to Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, at each of which places indications are given of a prolonged visit (xiii. 49, xiv. 3, 6, 7, 21). The same places were visited in reverse order on the return journey, as far as Perga on the Pamphylian coast; but instead of revisiting Cyprus the voyage to Syria was this time made direct. In estimating the length of time occupied by this first missionary journey, it must be remembered that a sea voyage could never have been undertaken, and land travel only rarely, during the winter months, say November to March; and as the amount of the work accomplished is obviously more than could fall within the travelling season of a single year, the winter of 47-48 must have been spent in the interior, and return to the coast and to Syria made only some time before the end of autumn A.D. 48. The succeeding winter, at least, was spent again at Antioch of Syria (xiv. 28). The council at Jerusalem of Acts xv. will fall at earliest in the spring of A.D. 49, and as only “certain days” were spent at Antioch after it (xv. 36) the start on the second missionary journey might have been made in the (late) summer of the same year. The “confirmation” of the existing churches of Syria and Cilicia, and of those of the first journey beginning with Derbe (xv. 41, xvi. 5), cannot have been completed under several months, nor would the Apostle have commenced the strictly missionary part of the journey in districts not previously visited, before the opening of the travelling season of A.D. 50. No delay was then made on the Asiatic side: it may still have been in spring when St Paul crossed to Europe and began the course of preaching at Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea and Athens which finally brought him to Corinth. The stay of eighteen months at the last-named place (xviii. 11) will naturally begin at the end of one travelling season and end at the beginning of another, i.e. from the autumn of A.D. 50 to the spring of A.D. 52. From Corinth the Apostle went to Jerusalem to “salute the church,” and then again to Antioch in Syria, where he stayed only for “a time” (xviii. 22), and soon left—on the third missionary journey, as conventionally reckoned—proceeding “in order” through the churches of the interior of Asia Minor. These journeys and the intervening halts must have occupied seven or eight months, and it must have been about the end of the year when St Paul established his new headquarters at Ephesus. The stay there lasted between two and three years (xix. 8, 10, xx, 31), and cannot have terminated before the spring of A.D. 55. From Ephesus he went into Europe, and after “much teaching” given to the churches of Macedonia (xx. 2), spent the three winter months at Corinth, returning to Philippi in time for the Passover (xx. 3, 6) of A.D. 56. Pentecost of the same year was spent at Jerusalem, and there St Paul was arrested, and kept in prison at Caesarea for two full years, until Festus succeeded Felix as governor (xx. 16, xxiv. 27), an event which, on this arrangement of the chronology of the missionary journeys, would therefore fall in A.D. 58.
Care, however, must be taken to remember exactly what this line of argument amounts to—what it can fairly be said to have proved, and what it still leaves open. It has been shown, firstly, that the missionary journeys cannot have commenced before the spring of A.D. 47, and, secondly, that between their commencement and the end of the two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea not less than eleven full years must have elapsed. Consequently A.D. 58 appears to be the earliest date possible for the arrival of Festus. On the other hand, a later date for Festus is not absolutely excluded. It is possible that the first missionary journey should be placed in A.D. 48 instead of A.D. 47; and it is possible, though not probable, that the missionary journeys should be spread over one year more than has been suggested above. At any rate, then, the alternative is open that every date given above, from A.D. 47 to A.D. 58, should be moved on one year, with the result of placing Festus’s arrival in A.D. 59.
It is now time to run to the direct evidence for the date of Festus’s arrival as procurator, in order to test by it the result already tentatively obtained.
2. The replacement of Felix by Festus. This is the pivot date of St Paul’s later life, but unfortunately two schools of critics date it as differently as A.D. 55 and A.D. 60 (or 61). The former are represented by Harnack, the latter by Wieseler, whom Lightfoot follows. It can be said confidently that the truth is between these two extremes (though in what exact year it is not easy to say), as will be evident from a consideration of the arguments urged, which in each case appear less to prove one extreme than to disprove its opposite.
In the result, then, the arguments brought forward in favour of each extreme fail to prove their case, but at the same time prove something against the opposite view. Thus the point that Josephus catalogues the events of Felix’s procuratorship under Nero cannot be pressed to bring down Felix’s tenure as far as 60 or 61, but it does seem to exclude as early a termination as 56, or even 57. Conversely, the influence of Pallas at court need not be terminated by his ceasing to be minister early in 55; but it would have been overshadowed not later than the year 60 by the influence of Poppaea, who in the summer of that year enabled the Jews to win their cause in the matter of the Temple wall, and would certainly have supported them against Felix. Thus the choice again appears to lie between the years 58 and 59 for the recall of Felix and arrival of Festus.
If St Paul was arrested in 56 or 57, and appealed to Caesar on the arrival of Festus in 58 or 59, then, as he reached Rome in the early part of the year following, and remained there a prisoner for two full years, we are brought down to the early spring of either 61 or 62 for the close of the period recorded in the Acts. That after these two years he was released and visited Spain in the west, and in the east Ephesus, Macedonia, Crete, Troas, Miletus, and perhaps Achaea and Epirus, is probable, in the one case, from the evidence of Romans xv. 28, Clem. ad Cor. v. and the Muratorian canon, and, in the other, from the Pastoral Epistles. These journeys certainly cannot have occupied less than two years, and it is more natural to allow three for them, which takes us down to 64-65.
Early evidence is unanimous in pointing to St Peter and St Paul as victims of the persecution of Nero (Clem, ad Cor. v. vi., Dionysius of Corinth ap. Eus. H.E. ii. 25, &c., combined with what we know from Tacitus of the course of the persecution, and from Gaius of Rome, ap. Eus. ii. 25, of the burial-places of the two apostles); and tradition clearly distinguished the fierce outbreak at Rome that followed on the fire of the city in July 64 from any permanent disabilities of the Christians in the eye of the law which the persecution may have initiated. There is, therefore, no reason at all to doubt that both apostles were martyred in 64-65, and the date serves as a confirmation of the chronology adopted above of the imprisonment, release and subsequent journeys of St Paul.
Investigation, then, of that part of the book of Acts which follows the death of Agrippa, recorded in chap. xii.—i.e. of that part of the apostolic age which follows the year 44—has shown that apparent difficulties can be to a large extent set aside, and that there is nowhere room between A.D. 44 and 64 for doubt extending to more than a single year. The first missionary journey may have begun in 47 or 48; the arrival of Festus may have taken place in the summer of 58 or of 59; the two years of the Roman imprisonment recorded in the last chapter of Acts may have ended in the spring of 61 or 62; and the dates which fall in between these extremes are liable to the same variation. The present writer leans to the earlier alternative in each case, 47, 58, 61; but he willingly concedes that the evidence, as he understands it, is not inconsistent with the later alternative.
But if the events of A.D. 44-64 can thus be fixed with a fair approximation to certainty, it is unfortunately otherwise with the events of A.D. 29-44. Here we are dependent (i.) on general indications given in the Acts; (ii.) on the evidence of the Epistle to the Galatians, which, though in appearance more precise, can be and is interpreted in very different ways.
(i.) The book of Acts is divided, by general summaries from time to time inserted in the narrative, into six periods: i. 1-vi. 7, vi. 8-ix. 31, ix. 32-xii. 24, xii. 25-xvi. 5, xvi. 6-xix. 20, xix. 2l-xxviii. 31. Of these the three last extend respectively from the death of Herod to the start for Europe in the second missionary journey (A.D. 44 to the spring of 50 ), from the start for Europe to the end of the long stay at Ephesus (A.D. 50  to the spring of A.D. 55 ), and from the departure from Ephesus to the end of the two years’ captivity at Rome (A.D. 55  to the beginning of A.D. 61 ). It will be seen that these periods are of more or less the same length, namely, six (or seven) years, five years, six years. There is, therefore, some slight presumption that the three earlier periods, which together cover about fifteen years, were intended by so artistic a writer as St Luke to mark each some similar lapse of time. If that were so, the preaching of the apostles at Jerusalem and organization of the Church at the capital—the preaching of the seven and the extension of the Church all over Palestine—the extension of the Church to Antioch, and the commencement of St Paul’s work—might each occupy five years more or less, that is to say, roughly, A.D. 29-34, 34-39, 39-44. The conversion of St Paul, which falls within the second period, would on this arrangement fall somewhere between five and ten years after the Crucifixion. Such conclusions are, however, of course general in the extreme.
(ii.) A nearer attempt to date at least the chronology of St Paul’s earlier years as a Christian could be made by the help of the Galatian Epistle if we could be sure from what point and to what point its reckonings are made. The apostle tells us that on his conversion he retired from Damascus into Arabia, and thence returned to Damascus; then after three years (from his conversion) he went up to Jerusalem, but stayed only a fortnight, and went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. Then after fourteen years (from his conversion? or from his last visit?) he went up to Jerusalem again to confer with the elder apostles. Now, if either of these visits to Jerusalem could be identified with any of the visits whose dates have been approximately settled in the chronology of A.D. 44-64, we should have a fixed point from which to argue back. Unfortunately, even less agreement exists on this head than on the question whether the fourteen years of the last-mentioned visit are to be reckoned from the conversion or from the previous visit. Most critics, indeed, are now agreed that the fourteen years are to be calculated from the conversion; and most of them still hold that the visit of Galatians ii. is the same as the council of Acts xv., partly, no doubt, on the ground that the latter visit was too important and decisive for St Paul to have omitted in giving even the most summary description of his relations with the twelve. This ground would, however, be cut away from their feet if it were possible to hold (with J. V. Bartlet, Apostolic Age, 1900, and V. Weber, Die Abfassung des Galaterbriefs vor dem Apostelkonzil, Ravensburg, 1900) that the epistle was actually written just before the council, i.e. in the winter of 48-49 [49-50]. In that case, of course, the two visits of Galatians i. and ii. would be those of Acts ix. 26 and xi. 30. The fourteen years reckoned back from the latter (c. A.D. 46) would bring us to A.D. 32-33 as the latest possible date for the conversion. With the older view, on the other hand, the fourteen years reckoned from the council in A.D. 49  would allow us to bring down the conversion to A.D. 36. The new view clears away some manifest difficulties in the reconciliation of the Epistle and the Acts, and the early date for Galatians in relation to the other Pauline epistles is not so improbable as it may seem; but the chronology still appears more satisfactory on the older view, which enables the conversion to be placed at least three years later than on the alternative theory. But it is clear that the last word has not been said, and that definite results for this period cannot yet be looked for.
To sum up: an attempt has been made, it is hoped with some success, to provide a framework of history equipped with dates from the time of St Peter’s arrest by Herod Agrippa I. at the Passover of A.D. 44 down to the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul in the persecution of Nero, A.D. 64-65. For the previous period, on the other hand, from A.D. 29 to A.D. 44, it appeared impossible in our present state of knowledge to state conclusions other than in the most general form.
- The books of Samuel, Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Chronicles, were by the Jews each treated (and written) as one book, and were not divided by them into two till the 16th century, through Christian influence.
- For a discussion of the word “Massoretes” see W. Bacher (J.Q.R. vol. iii. pp. 785 f.), who maintains that the original pronunciation of these words was מסורת and מומרה.
- The actual date of the introduction of vowel points is not known, but it must in any case have been later than the time of Jerome, and is probably to be assigned to the 7th century. Of the systems of punctuation which are known to us, the more familiar is the Tiberian, or sublinear, which is found in all printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. The other system, the Babylonian or superlinear, is chiefly found in certain Yemen MSS. For yet a third system of vocalization see M. Friedländer, J.Q.R., 1895, pp. 564 f., and P. Kahle in Z.A.T.W. xxi. (1901), pp. 273 f. Probably the idea of providing vowel points was borrowed from the Syrians.
- This represents the Western tradition as opposed to the Eastern text of ben Naphtali. For the standard copies such as the Codex Hillelis referred to by later writers see H. L. Strack, Proleg. Critica, pp. 14 f.
- Cf. F. C. Burkitt, Fragments of the Books of Kings according to the Translation of Aquila.
- The Talmudic story of the three MSS. preserved in the court of the temple (Sopherim, vi. 4) sufficiently illustrates the tentative efforts of the rabbis in this direction.
- W. Robertson Smith, Old Testament and the Jewish Church, pp. 69 f.
- For these Tiqqunē Sopherim or “corrections of the scribes” see Geiger, Urschrift, pp. 308 f.; Strack, Prolegomena Critica, p. 87; Buhl, Canon and Text of the Old Testament, pp. 103 f. In the Mekilta (Exod. xv. 7) only eleven passages are mentioned. Less important are the Itturē Sopherim, or five passages in which the scribes have omitted a waw from the text.
- Text of the Books of Samuel, pp. xxxix. f.
- According to Josephus (Ant. xi. 7. 8) the temple on Mt. Gerizim was set up by Manasseh in the reign of Darius Codomannus, i.e. about 332 B.C. It is possible that he is correct in placing the building of the temple at the later date, but probably he errs in connecting it with the secession of Manasseh, which, according to Nehemiah, occurred a century earlier; it has been suggested that he has confused Darius Codomannus with his predecessor, Darius Nothus.
- e.g. Ex. xx. 17, 19 ff.; Num. xx. f.; Deut. xxvii. 4.
- 1 Kings xx. 7-17; 2 Kings xxiii. 12-17, ed. by Mr (now Professor) F. C. Burkitt in Fragments of the Books of Kings according to the Translation of Aquila (Cambridge, 1897), and Ps. xc. 6-13; xci. 4-10, and parts of Ps. xxiii. by Dr C. Taylor in Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (2nd ed., 1897).
- On the question of Theodotion’s date, Schürer (Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes, Bd. iii. p. 324) argues very plausibly for his priority to Aquila on the grounds, (1) that Irenaeus mentions him before Aquila, and (2) that, after Aquila’s version had been adopted by the Greek Jews, a work such as that of Theodotion would have been somewhat superfluous. Theodotion’s work, he suggests, formed the first stage towards the establishment of a Greek version which should correspond more closely with the Hebrew. Moreover, this theory affords the simplest explanation of its disappearance from Jewish tradition.
- Only one MS. of the Septuagint version of Daniel has survived, the Codex Chisianus.
- Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, p. 51.
- Hence the name Hexapla. In some books, especially the poetical, the columns were increased to eight by the addition of the Quinta and Sexta, but the Octapla, as the enlarged work was called, was not apparently a distinct work. The Tetrapla, on the other hand, was a separate edition which did not contain the first two columns of the Hexapla.
- Lagarde’s projected edition of the Lucianic recension was unfortunately never completed; the existing volume contains Genesis-2 Esdras, Esther. It may be noted here that the Complutensian Polyglott represents a Lucianic text.
- Hastings’s Dict. of the Bible, iii. pp. 54 ff.
- The Old Testament in Greek, by A. E. Brooke and N. McLean, vol. i. pt. 1 (1906)
- His arguments are stated briefly (and in order to be refuted) by Jerome in his commentary on Daniel.
- In what follows the actual quotations are from his English work; some of the summaries take account of the brief expansions in his later Latin version.
- See particularly B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (1887-1888); J. Wellhausen, Die Kleinen Propheten (1892); B. I. Duhm, Jesaia (1892); T. K. Cheyne, Introduction to the Book of Isaiah (1895); K. Marti, Jesaja (1900), and Das Dodekapropheton (1904).
- The Old Testament in the Jewish Church (1881); The Prophets of Israel (1882).
- For details see an article in the Zeitschr. für d. altest. Wissenschaft for 1889, pp. 246-302, on “Alttestamentliche Studien in Amerika,” by G. F. Moore, who has himself since done much distinguished and influential critical work.
- To avoid any possibility of overstating the case, it is necessary to refer here to the fact that Tethmosis (Thothmes) III. in the 16th century B.C. mentions two Palestinian places named respectively Jacobel and Josephel, and Sheshonk in the both century B.C. mentions another called “The field of Abram.” From these names alone it is impossible to determine whether the places derived their names from individuals or tribes.
- Or according to some MSS., 167.
- Shem, the father of Arphaxad, is aged 100 at the time of the Flood, and lives for 600 years.
- Disregarding the “two years” of Gen. xi. 10; see v. 32, vii. 11.
- Taking account of the reading of LXX. in Ex. xii. 40.
- See further Driver’s essay in Hogarth’s Authority and Archaeology (1899), pp. 32-34; or his Book of Genesis (1904, 7th ed., 1909), p. xxxi. ff.
- 1 Petrie, Hist. of Egypt, i. (ed. 5, 1903), p. 251; iii. (1905), p. 2.
- See Merenptah’s account of the defeat of these invaders in Maspero, op. cit. pp. 432-437; or in Breasted’s Ancient Records of Egypt (Chicago, 1906), iii. 240-252.
- Namely, 40 years in the wilderness; Joshua and the elders (Judges ii. 7), x years; Othniel (iii. 11), 40 years; Ehud (iii. 30), 80 years; Barak (v. 31), 40 years; Gideon (viii. 28), 40 years; Jephthah and five minor judges (x. 2, 3, xii. 7, 9, 11, 14), 76 years; Samson (xvi. 31), 20 years; Eli (1 Sam. iv. 18), 40 years; Samuel (vii. 2), 20 years; Saul, y years; David, 40 years; and Solomon’s first four years—in all 440 + x + y years.
- Namely, Moses (in the wilderness), Joshua, Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Eli, Samuel, Saul and David.
- The “300 years” of Judges xi. 26 agrees very nearly with the sum of the years (namely, 319) given in the preceding chapters for the successive periods of oppression and independence. The verse occurs in a long insertion (xi. 12-28) in the original narrative; and the figure was most probably arrived at by computation upon the basis of the present chronology of the book.
- Petrie’s dates, Hist. of Egypt, vol. i. (ed. 5, 1903), pp. 20, 30, 233, 251, 252; vol. iii. (1905), pp. 2, 235, 261-7, 296-360. Other authorities, however, assign considerably lower dates for the dynasties prior to the 18th. Thus Breasted (Hist. of Egypt, 1906, pp. 22 ff., 221, 597) agrees with Ed. Meyer in giving, for reasons which cannot be here explained, for the beginning of the 1st dynasty c. B.C. 3400, for the 4th dynasty c. B.C. 2900-2750, and for the rule of the Hyksos c. B.C. 1680-1580; and in his Researches in Sinai, 1906, p. 175, Petrie proposes for Menes B.C. 5510, and for the 4th dynasty B.C. 4731-4454. See Egypt (Chronology).
- The real Biblical date, Ussher in Gen. xi. 26 interpolating 60 years, because it is said in Acts vii. 4 that Abraham left Haran after his father Terah’s death (Gen. xi. 32), and also (as explained above) interpreting wrongly Ex. xii. 40.
- The real Biblical date.
- The dates of the kings are, in most cases, those given by Kautzsch in the table in his Outline of the Hist. of the Literature of the O.T. (tr. by Taylor, 1898), pp. 167 ff.; see also A. R. S. Kennedy, “Samuel” in the Century Bible (1905), p. 31. The dates given by other recent authorities seldom differ by more than three or four years.
- The figures after a king’s name indicate the number of years assigned to his reign in the O.T. For Saul, see 1 Sam. xiii. 1, R.V.
- Hilprecht’s dates (The Bab. Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, vol. i. pt. i. 1893, pp. 11, 12; pt. ii. 1896, pp. 23, 24, 43, 44).
- So Sayce, Rogers (Hist. of Bab. and Ass., 1900, i. 318 f.) and others. The date rests upon a statement of Nabu-na’id’s, that Sargon’s son, Narām-Sin, reigned 3200 years before himself. Lehmann holds that there are reasons for believing that the engraver, by error, put a stroke too many, and that 2200 should be read instead of 3200.
- Rogers, i. 373-375. Many monuments and inscriptions of other kings in Babylonia, between 4000 and 2000 B.C., are also known.
- The lists of the Babylonian and Assyrian kings are not continuous; and before 1907, from the data then available (see the discussion in Rogers, op. cit. i. 312-348), Khammurabi, the sixth king of the first Babylonian dynasty, was commonly referred to such dates as 2376-2333 B.C. (Sayce) or 2285-2242 B.C. (Johns). But inscriptions recently discovered, by showing that the second dynasty was partly contemporaneous with the first and the third, have proved that these dates are too high; see L. W. King, Chronicles Concerning Early Bab. Kings (1907), i. 93-110; and the article Babylonia, Chronology. The data B.C. 2130-2088 is that adopted by Thureau-Dangin, after a discussion of the subject, in the Journal des Savants, 1908, p. 199; and by Ungnad in the Orient. Litt.-zeitung, 1908, p. 13, and in Gressmann’s Altorientalische Texte und Bilder zum A.T. (1909), p. 103.
- King, op. cit. i. 116, ii. 14.
- The date of Sheshonq depends on that fixed for Rehoboam. Petrie places the accession of Rehoboam in 937 B.C.
- If these dates are correct, there must be some error in the ages assigned to Ahaz and Hezekiah at their accession, viz. 20 and 25 respectively, for it would otherwise follow from them that Ahaz, dying at the age of [20 + 8 =] 28, left a son aged 25! The date 728 for Hezekiah’s accession rests upon the assumption that of the two inconsistent dates in 2 Kings xviii. 10, 13, the one in ver. 10 (which places the fall of Samaria in Hezekiah’s 6th year) is correct; but some scholars (as Wellhausen, Kamphausen, and Stade) suppose that the date in ver. 10 (which places Sennacherib’s invasion in Hezekiah’s 14th year) is correct, and assign accordingly Hezekiah’s accession to 715. This removes, or at least mitigates, the difficulty referred to, and leaves more room for the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz; but it requires, of course, a corresponding reduction in the reigns of the kings succeeding Ahaz.
- Breasted’s dates for these three kings (Hist. of Egypt, 1906, p. 601) are: Shabaka 712-700; Shabataka 700-688; Taharqa 688-663.
- See George Smith, The Assyrian Eponym Canon (1875), pp. 29 ff., 57 ff.; Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (transcriptions and translations of Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions), i. (1889), pp. 204 ff.
- It may be explained here that the dates of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings can be reduced to years B.C. by means of the so-called “Canon of Ptolemy,” which is a list of the Babylonian and Persian kings, with the lengths of their reigns, extending from Nabonassar, 747 B.C., to Alexander the Great, drawn up in the 2nd century A.D. by the celebrated Egyptian mathematician and geographer Ptolemy; as the dates B.C. of the Persian kings are known independently, from Greek sources, the dates B.C. of the preceding Babylonian kings can, of course, be at once calculated by means of the Canon. The recently-discovered contemporary monuments have fully established the accuracy of the Canon.
- Or, in any case, between 734 and 732; see Rost, Die Keilschrifttexte Tiglat-pilesers III., 1893, pp. xii., 39, 81, with the discussion, pp. xxxii.-xxxiv., xxxv.-xxxvi.
- This interval does not depend upon a mere list of Eponym years; we have in the annals of Sargon and Sennacherib full particulars of the events in all the intervening years.
- The date of this epistle is rather uncertain. Something depends upon the vexed question as to the identity of the Galatian churches. The epistle may be placed conjecturally early in the stay at Ephesus (c. A.D. 52-53). It is to be noted that the chronological grouping of the epistles by minute comparison of style is apt to be deceptive; resemblances of this kind are due more to similarity of subject than to proximity in date.
- E.g. from the preface to the Acts: “Dionysius, bishop of the Corinthians, a very ancient writer, quoted by Eusebius, writes that Peter and Paul obtained the crown of martyrdom by the command of Nero on the same day.” And again: “Some industrious critics have added (to the narrative of Acts) that Paul was acquitted at his first trial by Nero .... This conjecture they make from the 2nd Ep. to Timothy....”
- The phrase is Chillingworth’s (1637), who may be described as a Broad High-churchman.
- J. Wellhausen, Einl. in die drei ersten Evangelien (1905), p. 57.
- If Luke used Josephus, as F. C. Burkitt and others believe, the later date must be taken; otherwise the earlier date is more probable, as in any case it must fall within the lifetime of a companion of St Paul.
- It is a curious coincidence that a medieval Jew, R. Abarbanel (Abrabanel), records that the conjunction of these particular planets in this particular constellation was to be a sign of Messiah’s coming. It is just conceivable that his statement may ultimately depend on some such ancient tradition as may have been known to Chaldaean magi.
- If the Passover celebration could be anticipated by one day in a private Jewish family (and we know perhaps too little of Jewish rules in the time of Christ to be able to exclude this possibility), the evidence of the synoptic Gospels would no longer conflict with that of St John.
- Dr C. Erbes (Texte and Untersuchungen, new series, iv. 1) attempts to interpret the evidence of Eusebius in favour of the later date for Festus as follows: Eusebius’s date for Festus is to be found in Nero 1, by striking a mean between the Armenian, Claudius 12, and the Latin, Nero 2; it is really to be understood as reckoned, not by years of Nero, but by years of Agrippa; and as Eusebius erroneously antedated Agrippa’s reign by five years, commencing it with A.D. 45 instead of A.D. 50, his date for Festus is five years too early also, and should be moved to Nero 6, A.D. 59-60. The whole of this theory appears to the present writer to be a gigantic mare’s nest: see Journal of Theological Studies (October 1901), pp. 120-123.
- This date appears to be satisfactorily established by Ramsay, “A Second Fixed Point in the Pauline Chronology,” Expositor, August 1900.