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the author of the Acts of the Apostles. But the author of the Acts appears to be a companion of St. Paul, a description which agrees completely with Luke.' He adds that he knows that more than one objection can be raised to this statement; but he considers that one thing at least is beyond doubt-though nothing has been more vehemently doubted in Germany—namely, ' that the author of the third Gospel and of the Acts is a man of the second apostolic generation, and this suffices for our purpose that is for the purpose of showing that, at the least, the Acts of the Apostles 'carries us back to the half-century which followed the death of Jesus.' But, as we have seen, in his later work on 'The Apostles,' he avows his own opinion unshaken that the author is St. Luke. M. Renan further assumes, from internal evidence, that the Gospel was written after the siege of Jerusalem. His reasons for this opinion might be shown to be very insufficient; but it is enough for our purpose that he says it was written not long afterwards—that is, not long after the year 70-within the lifetime, therefore, of Apostles and contemporaries of our Lord. According to the ordinary computation, our Lord was crucified in the year 30, at the age of thirty-three. Persons, therefore, who were actually contemporary with Him would have been alive at the time St. Luke wrote, and in earlier
years he would have been in communication with numbers of such persons. We cannot but fully adopt M. Renan's own words when he adds, 'We are here, then, upon solid ground; for we have before us a work proceeding entirely from the same hand, and marked by the most perfect unity.'
Now the vast import of this admission will be readily apparent. The intimacy between St. Paul and St. Luke was peculiarly close and prolonged. We know from St. Paul's Epistles, that St. Luke possessed his complete confidence; and we cannot therefore but conclude that St. Luke's narrative, both in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Gospel, is supported by the knowledge and the belief of St. Paul. Nor of St. Paul only; for St. Paul, and St. Luke with him, were in intimate association with other Apostles and Evangelists. St. Luke, for instance, according to the evidence afforded by those passages in the Acts of the Apostles to which reference has been made, accompanied St. Paul on his last visit to Jerusalem, and during that visit, at any rate, would have had constant opportunities for communication with the other Apostles who were living there, and probably also with relations of our Lord, including the Virgin Mary, His mother. Unless, therefore, we disbelieve in the veracity of St. Luke-which, it may be safely said, no serious person does—we have in his Gospel a faithful report of
direct contemporary and Apostolic testimony respecting the facts which he records. He tells us in his prologue that many records of that testimony already existed; and during his companionship with St. Paul he must have been in a most favourable position for making enquiries respecting such statements, and obtaining supplementary information. He therefore declares in his preface the simple fact, when he says that he had been in a position to obtain a perfect understanding of all things from the very first. This, let me repeat, is not a contention which I am endeavouring to uphold against the general consent of critics; it is not the argument of a Christian controversialist or apologist alone; it is the admission of the most prominent representative of disbelief in the ancient Christian creed in the present day. The result is to justify us in concluding that criticism has established nothing, at all events, against the authenticity of the Gospel of St. Luke, and to assure us that we have in it a record of the narratives and convictions of eye-witnesses.
Now, this consideration leads us a long way back, and throws great light on the authority to be attributed to the other Gospels, and particularly to those of St. Matthew and St. Mark. Not to trouble you with the details of a critical argument, it will be more than enough to accept what M. Renan pro
ceeds to allow 'In general,' he says, 'the Gospel of St. Luke appears to be of a later date than the two first, and has the character of having been more carefully finished.' But he admits there is no doubt, from the testimony of one of the earliest Christian writers, Papias, that certain documents were written by both St. Matthew and St. Mark which corresponded, in their substantial character, to the two Gospels we now possess under those names. considers that the original form of them has been added to and modified, but nevertheless, in his opinion, St. Matthew 'deserves an exceptional confidence' in his report of our Lord's discourses; and as for St. Mark's Gospel, it is full of minute observations, proceeding without doubt from an eyewitness;' and there is nothing, he adds, 'to conflict with the report of Papias, that this eye-witness, who had evidently followed Jesus, who had loved Him and watched Him closely, and had preserved a vivid image of Him, was the Apostle St. Peter himself.'*
It will probably be felt to be more satisfactory, for the purposes of our present argument, to adopt these admissions from a witness hostile to the belief of the Church, than to urge on our own part the arguments which might be adduced in favour of still more definite conclusions. There seems a vague
* Vie de Jésus, pp. 1., lxxxi., lxxxiii.
feeling abroad-a feeling based, probably, on reiterated assertion rather than on careful reading
that there is a general consent of unbiassed criticism against the early date of the Gospel narratives, and consequently against our possessing in them the reports of eye-witnesses and of friends of eye-witnesses. It seems, therefore, of the highest importance it should be well understood that, in the deliberate and matured opinion of a person like M. Renan, there is no such critical presumption against the general authority of the Gospels; but that, on the contrary, although he thinks the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark have been in some degree altered from their original form, the records. of our Lord's discourses in the one Gospel may be received with peculiar confidence, and the reports of His actions in the Second Gospel bear the mark of proceeding from an eye-witness, who most probably was St. Peter himself. No wonder that he adds, In conclusion, I admit the four canonical Gospels as serious documents. They go back to the age which followed the death of Jesus.'* A broad result of this kind is clearly worth a great deal more than any qualifications with which, to meet his own ideas of what is possible or impossible, a critic may accompany it. For all purposes of ordinary historic evidence--and for our present argument it * Vie de Jésus, lxxxi.