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According to Aristobulus, Alexander had reigned twelve years and eight months; according to Diodorus Siculus and Castor, twelve years and seven months; according to the first book of the Makkab., Josephus and Eratosthenes, just twelve years; according to Cornelius Nepos and Livy, thirteen years; and Justinus makes it thirty-five years and one month !
To come down to later times, it is well known that the biographers of Luther disagree about many events in the life of the great reformer: for instance, the place and circumstances of his birth; the time of the death of a certain friend, which decided his conversion ; the date of many of his most valuable productions, &c. A learned and witty theologian, the late Dr. Wurm, of Würtemberg, has written (in opposition to Strauss) a “Life of Luther," in which he dissolves the reformer's entire history into mere fables. This kind of reductio ad absurdum is of no little force. There is more agreement, on the whole, among the four biographers of Jesus than in the accounts on any other great man in the history of the world. The differences, therefore, which still may remain in the Gospels do not furnish the least foundation for such a skepticism as we have here under consideration.
It is perfectly plain from the whole “Leben Jesu," that the ruling argument is not a historical or critical, but a philosophical one, namely, the supposed impossibility of miracles. This always gives the ultimate decision. Strauss says, “A change of water into wine contradicts the laws of nature; therefore, the second chapter of St. John must relate a fable. I cannot comprehend how the dead can rise from the grave; therefore, the resurrection of Lazarus and of Jesus is an impossibility.” Thus he makes his mental capacities, in ridiculous and wicked presumption, the measure of all truth. But this argument proves too much, and, consequently, nothing, according to a well-known law in logic; for neither Dr. Strauss, nor any philosopher, has succeeded yet in understanding the fact of the first creation, or the generation of a single individual, or the nature of the union between soul and body.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” To confess the imperfection of our present knowledge, and to bow before the infinitude of truth, is wisdom; to reject the reality of things because we do not understand them, is folly itself, and reminds one of the blind man, who denies the existence of the sun and of colors because he cannot see them. The skepticism of Strauss has its ultimate root in his pantheism, that is, in the denial
of a personal living God. His God is a sheer abstraction, the idea of humanity, which comes to self-consciousness and active reality only in individual men. It is the object of philosophy and of speculative theology to show the utter untenableness of such a conception of the divine Being. Wherever God is understood 10 be the almighty, omnipresent, self-conscious, ever-living, and independent ground of all existence, we must ascribe to him likewise the power of suspending, or rather of subordinating, the laws of nature, the work of his own hand, to the higher objects of his spiritual kingdom. And if we once believe the solemn declaration of Jesus Christ, that he and the Father are one, we must expect from him miraculous works. It would be a miracle, indeed, if the Saviour of mankind had not done things surpassing the standard of merely human actions. With him, miracles are rather natural, a matter of course; the necessary manifestations of a higher world in this lower sphere of existence in order to raise the latter to the life of God itself.
Mythological fables originate in times, and among nations, in which the conception of the one true God is wanting, and fantastic imagination rules over clear reason. But the age of Christ was comparatively a critical one, and was distinguished by the highest culture which antiquity attained. The productive period of Grecian and Roman mythology had long passed away; and the educated heathen philosophers and poets, far from adding new material to the fanciful religion of their ancestors, were rather disposed to treat the whole of it either with skepticism or with downright scorn and sarcasm.
Moreover, the creation of myths requires, that the real or imaginary person to which they refer be removed from the writer or inventor by considerable distance of time. It is impossible to imagine that the whole gospel history should have been thus invented within the short period of thirty years after Christ's life on earth. He was known personally by hundreds and thousands. His miracles, his words, his death, were not obscure occur. rences, but public before the world. The apostles and disciples, in spite of their oriental origin, had at least as good sense as we have. St. Paul, moreover, was a scholar of keen mind, and such a depth of thought as to leave even the greatest sages of Greece far in the rear. He most certainly could not be so easily imposed upon, much less as he was originally an enemy to Christianity and a persecutor of the church of the Most High.
The whole theory of Strauss, therefore, is destitute of foundation, and falls to the ground, if it can be proved that the Gospels
were written by the men whose names they bear. He feels this very sensibly, and tries, therefore, in the introduction to his work, to unsettle this old belief of all Christendom, and more particularly to shake the authenticity of the Gospel of John. But this is the very weakest portion of his book. He passes over this most important question, which ought to be settled first, before he has any right to proceed, with remarkable levity and superficiality. The genuineness of the Gospels is better supported by the oldest traditions than that of any book of antiquity. It is true we have no satisfactory testimony in favor of the Gospel of St. John from the first century, at least not satisfactory to a skeptical mind. But Irenæus, who flourished after the middle of the second century, declares distinctly, that John, the disciple of the Lord, who "leaned upon his bosom,” wrote, after the other evangelists, his Gospel during his stay at Ephesus.* This testimony is the more important, as Irenæus had spent his youth in Asia Minor, and lived there in intimate intercourse with the venerable martyr Polycarp, the disciple and personal friend of St. John himself. “I recollect,” says Irenæus, in one of his letters, “those scenes of my youth much better than things which have happened but recently ; for what we learn in our youth grows up with the soul, and becomes so much interwoven with it, that I am still able even to point out the places where the blessed Polycarp used to sit in delivering his discourses, that I still remember his going out and coming in, the peculiarities of his mode of life, the form of his person, the orations which he delivered to the people, and how he spoke of his intercourse with John, and the others, who had seen the Lord; how he related their speeches, and what he heard from them about the Lord, his miracles and doctrine-all of which Polycarp communicated as received from those who were eyewitnesses of the word of life, and in agreement with the Scriptures. To all these things I listened at that time carefully, according to the grace of God given unto me; I marked them not on paper, but on my heart; and repeat them constantly, according to the same grace.” But still more, Polycarp and Papias, the apostolic fathers, and cotemporaries of John, knew and quoted his first epistle,
Adv. Her., iii, 1, "Επειτα Ιωάννης ο μαθητής του Κυρίου, ο και επι στήθος αυτού αναπεσών, και αυτός έξέδωκε το Ευαγγέλιον, έν Έψέσω της Ασίας διατρίβων.
† Ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. V, 20.
| Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii, 39, Kéxpntai Šo o avròs (ó Tanias) paprupiaus από της προτέρας "Ιωάννου επιστολής. Polycarpi Epist. ad Philipp. c. 7: Πώς γάρ, δς αν μη ομολογή "Ιησούν Χριστόν εν σαρκί εληλυθέναι, αντίχριστός έστι, (cf. 1 John iv, 3.)
which every critic must acknowledge to have proceeded from the same pen as the Gospel, so much so, that both productions must stand or fall together. Yea, even in the concluding verse of the Gospel itself we have, in all probability, a testimony of the disciples of John and elders at Ephesus, John xxi, 24: “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things : and we* know that his testimony is true.”
All these testimonies of the oldest church tradition are most powerfully supported by the internal evidences of the fourth Gospel itself in favor of its genuineness. The writer must have been an eye-witness of the events which he relates, according to his own declarations. John i, 14; xix, 35; 1 John i, 1-3. He speaks of himself in a somewhat mysterious way, calling himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” (John xix, 26; xx, 2,) or the other disciple,” (John xX, 3, 4, 8,) or the disciple who was "leaning on Jesus' bosom." John xui, 23, 25. It is evident, however, from these passages, that the writer must have been one of the three favorite apostles of the Lord. It cannot be St. James; for he died as early as A. D. 44, before any book of the New Testament was written. It cannot be Peter; for the disciple who was leaning on Jesus' bosom is expressly distinguished from him. Therefore it must have been St. John; yea, it is very likely that the appellation of the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” is nothing but an explanation of his own name, which, according to the Hebrew, signifies “Jehovah (that is, Christ, in the Old Testament, John xii, 6) has been merciful.”
If Strauss would be consistent, he could not possibly stop with his theory, but must proceed to the monstrous conclusion, that the writer of the fourth Gospel, and in fact all the authors of the New Testament, were willful impostors, and thus fall back upon the position of the basest of English Deists, French infidels, and of the Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist. Although his Leben Jesu is written with more scientific force than all former attacks against Christianity, it labors under most difficulties, and can be most readily reduced ad absurdum. Take, for instance, his view on Christ's resurrection. According to him, it rests on mere visions of the apostles. But what sensible person can earnestly persuade himself to believe that not only eleven, but, according to St. Paul's report, (1 Cor. xv,) fifty persons had the same vision at one and
From this we conclude that there was more than one who wrote this verse, as the evangelist, in speaking of himself, always uses the third person singular. .
the same time in clear daylight? And then, again, to make the whole history of the church, this most powerful and overwhelming of all realities, rest on a false dream--what a preposterous imagination! This really is substituting a much greater miracle in the place of those which the plain Christian humbly receives, and from which he derives all his comfort in life and hope in death. Thus we
are forced back, even by the process of a critical investigation, to that view of Christ's life which is as old as Christianity itself, and which will live as long as He who is the life and the resurrection itself, while all systems of infidelity are doomed to oblivion and perdition. We may fairly say, even of Strauss, that he belongs already to a bygone age. He will never revive again, except it be among transcendental Unitarians and Universalists in the new world. In Germany his palmy days are for ever gone. His book has called forth a great number of most valuable productions, by which our good old faith in the historical Christ has been more firmly established than ever.
To this anti-Strauss literature belongs Dr. Neander's "Leben Jesu Christi," a book which has not only a passing, polemical, but also a permanent, positive value. The opposition to Strauss, to be complete, required a work which should cover the whole ground, and should put a new building in the place of that deplorable ruin of a spirit rejoicing in destruction. We are very glad that this book has made its appearance in the English language. Professors M'Clintock and Blumenthal have a claim to the lasting gratitude of American theologians for executing this task, which was by no means easy, owing partly to the subject itself, partly to the peculiarities of Neander's style. But they were well qualified for it. Professor Blumenthal is a German by birth and education; Professor M'Clintock by inoculation, at least as far as the language is concerned ; and we cannot but believe that their united labors have produced about as good a translation as anybody in this country could have prepared.
We have detained our readers already too long to enlarge upon the production of one of the greatest theologians of the age. Besides, it needs no recommendation from our pen; our praises would be rather presumptuous. The reputation of the venerable man who occupies a prominent place not only among the regenerators of evangelical theology and piety of modern Germany, but also among the divines of all ages, and who has justly been styled the father of church history, has long been established in Europe and America. His extensive and thorough learning, his tender conscientiousness, his unfeigned humility, and his truly catholic