Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/89

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77
AGNOSTICISM.

However, to turn finally to the important fact of external evidence. Prof. Huxley reiterates, again and again, that the verdict of scientific criticism is decisive against the supposition that we possess in the four Gospels the authentic and contemporary evidence of known writers. He repeats, "without the slightest fear of refutation, that the four Gospels, as they have come to us, &re the work of unknown writers." In particular, he challenges my allegation of "M. Renan's practical surrender of the adverse case"; and he adds the following observations, to which I beg the reader's particular attention:

I thought (he says) I knew M. Renan's works pretty well, but I have contrived to miss this "practical"—(I wish Dr. Wace had defined the scope of that useful adjective)—surrender. However, as Dr. Wace can find no difficulty in pointing out the passage of M. Renan's writings, by which he feels justified in making his statement, I shall wait for further enlightenment, contenting myself, for the present, with remarking that if M. Renan were to retract and do penance in Notre Dame to-morrow for any contributions to biblical criticism that may be specially his property, the main results of that criticism, as they are set forth in the works of Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and Volkmar, for example, would not be sensibly affected.

Let me begin, then, by enlightening Prof. Huxley about M. Renan's surrender. I have the less difficulty in doing so as the passages he has contrived to miss have been collected by me already in a little tract on the "Authenticity of the Gospels,"[1] and in some lectures on the "Gospel and its Witnesses ";[2] and I shall take the liberty, for convenience' sake, of repeating some of the observations there made.

I beg first to refer to the preface to M. Renan's "Vie de Jésus."[3] There M. Renan says:

As to Luke, doubt is scarcely possible. The Gospel of St. Luke is a regular composition, founded upon earlier documents. It is the work of an author who chooses, curtails, combines. The author of this Gospel is certainly the same as the author of the Acts of the Apostles. Now, the author of the Acts seems to be a companion of St. Paul—a character which accords completely with St. Luke. I know that more than one objection may be opposed to this reasoning; but one thing at all events is beyond doubt, namely, that the author of the third Gospel and of the Acts is a man who belonged to the second apostolic generation; and this suffices for our purpose. The date of this Gospel, moreover, may be determined with sufficient precision by considerations drawn from the book itself. The twenty-first chapter of St. Luke, which is inseparable from the rest of the work, was certainly written after the siege of Jerusalem, but not long after. We are, therefore, here on solid ground, for we are dealing with a work proceeding entirely from the same hand, and possessing the most complete unity.

It may be important to observe that this admission has been supported by M. Renan's further investigations, as expressed in his subsequent volume on "The Apostles." In the preface to that

  1. Religious Tract Society.
  2. John Murray, 1883.
  3. Fifteenth edition, p. xlix.