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Chapter 1: How His Person is Conceived

IN the Synoptic Gospels, and here we may also include the Fourth, the two views of Jesus which we are accustomed to distinguish as the natural and the supernatural are alike represented. It is through their conflict that the simple story of a humble and beautiful life is turned into the supreme drama of history. The one view is worked out with conspicuous fidelity to its last logical consequences by men who honestly believed it; the other view is presented with ingenuous simplicity, though with varying degrees of conscious and consistent completeness, by the writers, who, either out of personal knowledge or from collected and sifted materials, attempted to tell the story of His life. The views so stand together as to compel us to compare them as respects their adequacy and historical truth.

§ I. The Natural View of Jesus in the Gospels

1. What this view involves has just been stated:1 it conceives man as an empirical unit, and may be said to emphasize six factors of being and character: race, family, place, time, education, and opportunity. Race denotes man's whole inheritance as a human being, the mental endowment which belongs to his special stock, the experience that has through long ages and by ceaseless struggles for the means of subsistence and against the enemies that threaten them, been accumulated by a given people for transference to its sons. Family describes the man's immediate ancestry, the qualities that come to him by blood and birth, the class from which he springs, whether governing, servile, professional, or industrial, with all that these signify as to transmitted faculty and advantage or disadvantage in beginning the struggle to live. Place speaks of geographical and social environment, the atmosphere which the man breathes and which quickens or deadens the pulses of his body and mind. Time is but a name for a reigning spirit, a mood, which affects the man's temper and soul as the place affects his physical organism, and which makes him love freedom or fear the king, breathe high hopes or nurse despondency and despair. Education is that study of the past which gives mastery over the present, the development of faculty by skilled hands, teaching a man to make the most and best of himself by telling him what men in other ages have thought and achieved. And opportunity is the chance which comes to a man to use to the uttermost what he is, what he has inherited, and what he has acquired. The most that the natural view expects from a man is that he be equal to the sum of all the conditions concerned in his making. If he transcends them, then we are landed either in an insolubility or in the recognition of an unknown factor which may be named personal genius, but can hardly be described as normal or according to law. In any case this appeal to an undiscovered or incalculable cause differs only in name from the appeal to the supernatural.

Whether these natural factors of personality are equal to the explanation of Jesus may appear in the process of the discussion. At present we have only to note that while He lived the natural was the obvious view of Him, taken as a matter of course by men of all classes and kinds. In His own city, where He had lived like any other child subject unto his parents (ὐποτασσόμϵνος αὐτοι̑ς), i.e. (τοι̑ς γονϵυ̑σιν),2 the multitude (οἱ πολλοί) even after He had achieved fame, described Him as “the carpenter” the son of Mary, and refused to distinguish Him in any special way from either His brothers or His sisters.3 He was but “Joseph's son,” even as they.4 To Himself Mary, when she found Him in the temple, said, “Child, Thy father and I sought thee sorrowing.”5 The very disciples did not at first think of Him otherwise. Philip named Him “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,”6 Peter rebuked Him,7 Judas betrayed Him, and the rest appealed to Him as Rabbi, the Master,8 most familiar of names to the men of Israel. Even His own family thought of Him as one they could claim and coerce; and justified their attempt to force Him by saying, “He is beside Himself.”9 To the scribes He was but as one who blasphemed when He spoke of forgiving sins.10 The Pharisees explained His miracles of healing by demoniacal possession,11 a charge as common and as natural then as witchcraft used to be in our own darker ages, The very notion that He could wake the ruler's daughter from the sleep which was called death, roused the crowd to scornful laughter.12 Indeed, so rooted was this natural view of Him, that we need to remember it before we can be just to the men who opposed Him and who compassed His death. They judged Jesus to be a common man, holding that any who believed otherwise were deceived.13 His very home condemned Him, for out of Galilee came no prophet.14 He is to the Pharisees but an itinerant sophist, so little instructed that even the Herodians were expected to ensnare Him.15 He was despised as the friend of publicans and sinners,16 watched that He might be accused as a Sabbath-breaker,17 allowed to go at large simply from fear of the people.18 The Sadducee, though he was not, like the scribe, a trained disputant, yet had a logical puzzle of his own concerning marriage in the resurrection, and with it he tried to perplex Jesus,19 just as he was wont to confound the Pharisee. All these men judged Him by the standards they applied to one another; and as they judged, they handled Him, and He died at their hands just as any ordinary person would have died. In all this there may be matter that requires explanation, but nothing calling for either surprise or censure.

2. But the two men whose conduct is most completely governed by this natural view are Caiaphas and Pilate, for these two so believed it as to become the joint authors of the tragedy of the Cross. Their relation to this tragedy was indeed very different; the one was the author of the plot, the other the cause of the catastrophe. Caiaphas was a Sadducee, an aristocrat in family and feeling, head of the Jewish Church, and an authority in the State, with the instincts and habits of the ruler controlled by the mind and exercised in the manner of the ecclesiastic. In the Sanhedrim his characteristic qualities had room for the freest and most effective play, especially when it met in such confusion and alarm as followed upon the events at Bethany and the triumphal entry.20 For it is evident that Jesus had, in spite of Himself, become a political personage. In Israel religion and politics were not two things, but one and the same; for the name that denoted the strongest faith of the people expressed also their highest hope, their yearning after freedom from the yoke of the alien. The Messiah was expected to vanquish Cæsar; and expectancy easily translates itself into action, especially when it lives in the heart of a passionate race. Rulers who do not believe fear profoundly the people who do; the statesmanship that is calculation dreads the enthusiasm which is ready to sacrifice its all in order that it may attain its end, without being able, or indeed caring, to balance or to measure the forces which oppose it. And in this council two different kinds of unbelief sat facing each other in solemn and unmasked fear. There was the unbelief of the Sadducee, who knew Moses but not the prophets, who neither expected nor desired any other Anointed than the priesthood which stood to him as the finest blossom of his race. And there was the unbelief of the Pharisee, who preached the Messiah that was to come, but who thought it best that the Pharisee should believe in the preaching while the people believed in the Messiah.

And the circumstances of the moment made action by the multitude on the ground of their faith at once most probable and most inconvenient. The Passover was at hand, Jerusalem was filled by an expectant crowd, massed, as it were, into a colossal person, sensitive on the outside to the softest touch of national hope or fear, while within, like a fire in the bones, there burned the fierce passion for the religion of their ancient race. Through this crowd the sudden fame of Jesus swept, fused it, inspired it, moved it by the delirious hope that here, at last, was the Messiah come to break in pieces the heathen oppressor, and to purge the holy city from the defilement of his presence.21 The Council knew the people, and also knew the procurator,22 whom it seemed to see sitting in his palace, jealous, vindictive, watching as with a hundred eyes for an occasion to interfere. And it stood bewildered between the rival terrors: on the one hand, the uncalculating and incalculable passion of the crowd, and, on the other, the cold omnipotence of Rome, here so easily roused and so pitiless when provoked. Just then Caiaphas stood up, the one masterful spirit who could command the storm. He had the significant yet dark distinction of being “High Priest that fateful year,” and was about to fulfil his office in a sense and manner he little dreamed of. He spoke with a certain imperious scorn words that may be paraphrased thus:23 “Ye know nothing at all: the public safety is the supreme law, and must not be endangered by the passion which in the populace is a fitful madness, easily kindled, but only to be cunningly quenched. In this case it can best be quenched through its cause; smite the hero the populace admires, and their admiration will die into disgust.” The words seemed those of gifted sagacity; Jesus was nothing, the mere creation of a fanaticism blinded by many disappointments; and, though He was guiltless of crime, yet it was the high expedient of statesmanship to save the people by making an end of Him. And if He were only the common person the priest and the Council conceived Him to be, who will say that the expedient was foolish or unfitted for its purpose? For what is the wisdom of statecraft but ingenuity in the invention, not of just, but of effectual means to desired ends?

It is from this point of view that the policy of the Council and the method of the chief priest ought to be judged. Grant that Jesus was the mere natural man they conceived Him to be, and we do not see how they could have acted otherwise. They were not heroic men, but they meant well to their land and State, and feared above everything the anger or suspicion of Rome; for they had daily to face a governor who was more imperious than his master, and to watch soldiers who cared for nothing save his commands. And while they knew and trembled, the people were ignorant and without fear. In the soul of Caiaphas concern for the nation, the temple, the priesthood, the worship, was uppermost; and he was anxious to give the Roman no occasion to doubt his own or his people's loyalty. Possibly, too, he was not disinclined to read the Pharisaic opposition a needed lesson. He would say to them, as it were: “You see what danger lies in your theories, and how easily they may become explosive forces in the heart of the populace. You teach that Jehovah alone ought to be King over this people; that Cæsar is a heathen and an oppressor; and that when God pleases to send His Messiah freedom will be achieved. They think that this Jesus is the Messiah you talk of, and wait only a sign from him to revolt. And, though he seems a peaceably-inclined, well-meaning, and even innocent person, yet some event which they may take as a sign may happen without premeditation or warning. Chance may bring it, and we may any moment find Jerusalem in arms against Rome. There is nothing so safe as a sound conservatism, which, though not at all contented with what is, yet fears more what may be; and so does its best to maintain the actual lest the attempt to realize the ideal become a catastrophe which shall engulf the whole nation. Let us therefore do our utmost to prove our loyalty to Cæsar; charge this man with being an agitator, an enemy of order and of Rome, surrender him as a pledge of our obedience to the Emperor; and so out of our very trouble pluck the approval of our conquerors, the peace of our State, and the continuance of our authority, ‘It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.’” On his own premisses, there seemed to be statesmanship in his policy; on the Evangelists', his policy appeared a devil's counterfeit of the purpose and mind of God.

3. The same conception as to the status and nature of Jesus which governed the policy of Caiaphas possessed the mind of Pilate. He is an unconscious actor in the drama, with only the dimmest sense that anything extraordinary is proceeding, or that he is playing more than his ordinary part 24 There is something fateful and pathetic in the position and action of this man; when we think of him, we feel that justice must be blind, or she would pity too much to be just. Here is the only Roman known to history who saw Jesus; but his eyes had no vision in them, and so he looked as one who did not see, or so saw as only to misjudge and mishandle. In him Rome was impersonated. Out of him looked her imperial strength, in him dwelt for a subject people her statesmanship. As he faced the Jews he thought of Cæsar, and ruled the subject race with his feet firm planted on an empire which stretched westward to the Pillars of Hercules, northward to the forests of Germany and the outermost coasts of Gaul. And what were the Jews to him? Turbulent men, intolerable for their intolerant superstition, a people that the imperial image on a banner provoked into madness,25 who would not allow the shadow of a Gentile to fall on their temple, though, indeed, that temple was so poor a place as to be unadorned by the statue of any god. Still it was necessary, the people being conquered, to rule them considerately—if they behaved; but if they were disaffected at this high feast and showed themselves seditious, or even if they only threatened to be, then in Cæsar's name let their blood be mingled with their sacrifices.26 And what did Jesus seem to this man as He stood before him? A Jew, only a Jew, though most unlike the typical Jew in the gentleness of His bearing, the mystery of His speech, and the glamour of soul which the Roman felt touch his heart, now waking him to mockery, now moving him to pity.27 He knew the chief priest and the Council; and he had for them the sort of contempt the conqueror feels for those of the conquered who seek by excessive suppleness to keep themselves in place, mollifying with the one hand the strong-willed victor, and soothing with the other the irritable impotence of the vanquished. Jesus was a being of another order than these men; and though Pilate, listening to His discourse, was so vividly, by contrast, reminded of Epicurus and his great Roman disciple, as to throw out the jesting question, “What is truth?” yet he turned away with the feeling that he would save Him,—unless, indeed, the obstinate unreason of this most excitable people made it too troublesome.28 For Rome did not mind the shedding of blood when it was necessary; but it did not love too frequent bloodshed in any province, Cæsar being then prone to suspect some fault in the governor. So it might happen, if His death were needed to keep the turbulent quiet, that it would be easiest to let Him die—worse things were done daily in the amphitheatre under the Emperor's own eye.

The successive scenes of the drama are full of the incidents which are character,—the priests anxious to make out Jesus to be the political personage their policy required Him to be, Pilate wishful to regard Him as a religious person in whom Rome had no concern, though the Jewish law might condemn Him; while Jesus moves in the midst aloof from them all and within a world of His own. According to both the Synoptists and John, the chief priest asks Him as to His teaching in general, and specially touching the temple, His own person and claims, but nothing concerning any political aim or purpose.29 Yet, when they bring Him before the Procurator, their only charge is political. Pilate at first declines to hear them: “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.”30 But they deftly accentuate the political accusation which Pilate could understand, and was bound to take notice of: “He has claimed to be King of the Jews.”31 But the very gravity of the charge proved to the Roman its absurdity; he could not take it seriously, and suspected that some religious idea or sectarian spite lurked under its political form. He tried to make out the truth by questioning Jesus, who would not disown His ideal Kinghood in terms which would have falsified their charge.32 The definition He gave only the more bewildered the governor, and tempted him to conceal under a question that jested a suspicion that was growing into a certainty.33 He next tried, by showing the pitiful figure of the scourged and mocked King, to awaken them to the sense of the absurd in their charge, but they would not be turned aside. In their fear of Jesus they lost fear of Pilate, and assailed him where they knew he was weakest: “If thou release this man, thou art not Cæsar's friend,” for had not Jesus, by making Himself a King, set Himself up as a rival over against Cæsar?34

And so we see Pilate standing in dubious and deliberative mood, now scornfully temporizing with the multitude, and now patronizing Jesus, befriending Him with a sort of lofty condescension which was touched with regret, looking Him, as he vainly thought, through and through, though never failing to read the mind and motives of His accusers. But even when most convinced of the innocence of Jesus, he is perfectly sure of His mere manhood, though it be of a type rare in the genus fanatic. So he believes himself to have power, though he thinks Jesus has none. But let us imagine that, in the very moment when he boasted his power to crucify or to release,35 a lucid vision had come to him, and that he had beheld the centuries before him unroll their wondrous secret. In less than eighty years he sees in every city of the Roman world societies of men and women meeting in the name of this Jesus and singing praises to Him as to God; while so powerful has His Name grown in some provinces that the very temples are deserted, and the most famous governor of the day writes to ask the Emperor what policy he is to pursue. Then he sees Rome, astonished and angry at the might of the Name, lose her proud tolerance, become vindictive, brutal, even turning persecutor, and making the profession of the Name a crime punishable with death. But all the resources of the Empire are powerless against the Name; the legions that had carried the Roman Eagles into the inaccessible regions lying round the civilized world, forcing the tide of barbarism back before them, here availed nothing. And he beholds in less than three hundred years the symbol of the Cross on which he was about to crucify this Jesus, float victoriously from the capitol; while the Emperor sits, not amid patricians in the Roman Senate, but in a council of Christian pastors, all without pride of birth, all without names the Senate would have honoured, many maimed, some even eyeless, disfigured by the tortures Rome had inflicted in her vain attempt to extinguish the infamous thing. In another hundred years he sees the very empire herself fallen, while in her seat sits one whose only claim to rule is that he represents the Crucified; and because he does so, he builds up a kingdom beside which Rome at her vastest was but as a hand-breadth, and the city that had been proudly called eternal was in duration only as the child of a day. And if Pilate had waked from his dream as suddenly as he had fallen into it, and looked at Jesus sitting before him mocked and buffeted, helpless in the face of the howling mob, deserted of man, manifestly forsaken of His God, what could he have said but this? “What foolish things dreams are! Their world is a sort of topsy-turvydom of reality; for were this vision of mine true, then the invisible kingdom of this Man would be the only real empire, and my claim of power either to crucify or to release Him a vain and empty boast! Happily the cross will soon restore us all to sanity, and show the vanity of the dream.”

4. This much, then, and no more, Caiaphas and Pilate saw in Jesus; and as they saw they judged; and as they saw and judged, so did all the men of cultivated intelligence in their time and place. They were not unreasonable, nor without integrity, but honest after their kind; only, like all who are consciously and proudly men of the world, they made their experience the measure of other men and all their possibilities. I wonder how many of all the sagacious intellects who govern the modern State and meddle in politics, national and international, or how many of the disciplined minds who cultivate in our day the natural and historical sciences would, similarly situated, have judged differently; certainly not many—possibly not even one; for the modern idea of the limitations of nature is more positive than the scientific belief in its potencies or in the capabilities of man. And the idea of a miraculous person might well seem incredible even to men who were credulous as to miraculous events; for the events would happen without their consent, while the person they might have to control or resist and dispose of. But if anything is certain, it is that this Jesus represented forces vaster than these rulers could direct or command, arrest or annihilate. In its outer setting the Passion is as mean and sordid a transaction as ever passed before the eyes of men; in all the outward accessories of dignity and grandeur it has been eclipsed thousands of times. Similar tragedies have been all too common. The young enthusiast, in revolt against the tyranny and oppression, the formalism and make-believe of his day, dreaming of nobler ideals for men and society, and attempting in some way to realize them, is a figure every age and every country has known. And if the age has not conquered the enthusiast by changing him into the spokesman of expediency and convention, it has yet been able, without any dread of supernatural retribution, to bid death make an end of his power to trouble. And this seemed only an ordinary case of the social and religious Reformer in conflict with an established order, a collision of the static forces which preserve a society against a dynamic force which threatened its disintegration. That force might be impersonated in a character of rare loveliness and potent charm, but revolution is not made agreeable to the men who hate it by the moral excellence of those who would effect it. It was enough that Jesus by word and action threatened the order of the temple and the doctrine of the synagogue; the guardians of law and tradition could only unite to suppress a man who by questioning their right to represent God and rule man, assailed the very foundations of society. And they acted exactly as men situated as they were, and believing as they did, were bound to act: explained the law they knew to the governor who did not know it in a form he was certain to understand; and then demanded that he who had the power of life and death should exercise his power in the interests of the law and of the people whose sole safety it was. If their reading of the person of Jesus was right, one might say that their conduct exhibited the violence which is born of panic, or the craft learned by men who would, while slaves themselves, govern an enslaved people as if they were free, but he could hardly say more. But, then, the plea which justifies them leaves us with a riddle which has no fellow in all history: How has it happened that a transaction so common and so unspeakably squalid should, alone of all the innumerable similar occurrences in time, have been attended by consequences so extraordinary and recreative?

§ II. The Supernatural View of Jesus

1. The mere necessity of asking this question is enough to suggest that there must have been in the person of Jesus elements which escaped the eye of priest and scribe and procurator, factors or forces of change which His death might strengthen but could not dissolve. And we know that there were even then a few men who, for reasons they dimly felt rather than clearly perceived, ventured to differ from the scholars and statesmen who imagined that the duty of the world was to think their thoughts after them. These men were for the most part poor and ignorant enough, but their disadvantages were lost in one supreme advantage—they had known Jesus, and had learned of Him; and because of this learning they were soon able, by what I can only describe as an extraordinary act of faith, to read a meaning into Him which the men of cultivated intelligence had failed to find. They formulated a theory—or, more correctly, an hypothesis—of His place and person, which had this remarkable peculiarity: it was an hypothesis which did not so much explain facts that had been or that were, as facts that were to be. It was what we may term a prophetic and a creative hypothesis,—prophetic because centuries of history were to be needed, not to make it conceivable, yet to justify it; creative because it was to call into existence the very facts that were to be its justification. And what was this hypothesis? It was the idea embodied in our Gospels, common to all of them, though differently complexioned in each:—Jesus is conceived as the Messiah, sent of God, descended through the Jews, come to live and die for the saving of the world. For Him all past Jewish history had been; towards Him the hopes of men and the events of history had alike converged. From Him went out the light that was to enlighten—the life that was to quicken—the nations. Thus Mark, the oldest, the simplest, the most objective, yet the most picturesque of the Gospels, conceives Jesus as the Messiah,36 prophesied of beforehand,37 announced by John.38 declared to be the Son of God,39 the Preacher of the kingdom,40 whose Gospel is to be proclaimed to all the nations,41 the Founder of the new society who calls and instructs His disciples,42 the Son of man and the Lord of the Sabbath,43 the Forgiver of sins,44 the Doer of mighty deeds,45 who gives His life a ransom for many,46 and establishes the new covenant in His blood.47 Matthew, though he uses Mark, gives more of His words than Mark, enables us to see farther into His mind, and to conceive Him and His work more as He Himself conceived them. But though the conception is larger, it is not different. He is “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”48 Yet He bears the name Immanuel, “which is, being interpreted, God with us.”49 The Magi worship Him;50 the devil tempts Him;51 the Baptist hails Him;52 the disciples follow Him.53 He fulfils the law and the prophets;54 His words are imperishable, they judge men; and as He judges so does God.55 He is the Son who alone knows the Father and only through Him can the Father be known.56 He is the Messianic king, whose reign is righteousness and peace.57 Men who take His yoke upon them find rest to their souls.58 Death ends neither His existence nor His authority; He reigns for ever, and His law is to be obeyed every whit59 Luke, in what a master of style thought the most beautiful book in all literature, has fitly enshrined the most beautiful character in all history. He has a wider outlook than Matthew, and places Jesus, the Son of Adam, which was “the Son of God,”60 in the same relation to man that in the first Evangelist He had held to Israel; yet conceives Him as “the Son of the Most High,” “the Holy One,” supernaturally begotten, at whose birth the heavenly host sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good-will.”61 The author of the Fourth Gospel, with more speculative audacity than the synoptists, explained His pre-eminence thus:—“The Word which had ever been with God, and was God, became flesh and dwelt among us; He, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him.”62 And this incarnate Word, this manifested and manifesting Son, the Evangelist identified with Jesus. His person, in a figure which described a significant fact, was said to be the tabernacle or tent of meeting for God and man; and they that could look within and bear the light saw the symbol of the invisible Presence, the living image which expressed the Eternal God. Jesus, in a word, was Deity manifested in humanity and under the conditions of time.

Now this is in itself an extraordinary conception, and it is made more extraordinary by the marvellous way in which it is embodied in a personal history. There never was a loftier idea, or one better calculated to challenge prompt and complete contradiction, than the one expressed in our Gospels, models though they be of simplicity in narrative and language. Their common purpose is to describe the life and record the words of a person they conceive as miraculous. Critics differ, and with good reason, as to the degree of the miraculous which the Evangelists severally attribute to His person. Mark does not, like John, speak of Him in the terms of Eternity and Deity. John and Mark do not, like Matthew and Luke, write of a supernatural conception and birth. And it may be argued, from the small place accorded to it and its presence in only two of our extant documents, that the idea of a supernatural birth was not held to be essential to the idea of the miraculous person. But what is common to all four Evangelists, and what is in their mind essential, is the idea not that the miraculous history proves the person to be supernatural, but and historical being. Yet these are the features which distinguish our canonical Gospels. The Evangelists, however simple, uncritical, and credulous we may conceive them to have been, yet knew the distinction between the ordinary and the extraordinary, the normal and the miraculous; and understood how little compatible miracles were with the persons of the men they met in daily life. Experience, therefore, could not supply them with any type to which they could conform the person they meant to portray. Two alternatives are thus alone possible: either the portrait was ideal, a product of the creative imagination, or real, a study from life, a picture which embodied personal experience and observation.

One of the forms under which the theory of an ideal portrait may be presented has already been noticed.63 It is an unconscious creation of the mythical imagination, regretful and retrospective. The theory is eminently attractive: it saves the honesty of the writers, it does justice to their affections, it credits them with minute knowledge of Hebrew literature, it endows them with an instructed imagination, which it quickens by admiration and inspires by love. But one thing it fails to do: explain how a selective fancy could, out of so many borrowed and broken and unjointed fragments, weave so perfect a personal unity and place it in an historical environment so suitable and consistent. The ideal remains an ideal, do with it what we will. The more spontaneously and without design the imagination works, the less will it be under the control of the critical reason, and therefore the more independent of local colouring and conditions; and so will be the less heedful of any violent improbabilities in the prosaic matters of time and space. But these are the very matters in which the evangelical histories are so real, so natural, and so exact. They are full of the feeling for the time; they understand its men, schools, classes, parties; they know the thoughts that are in the air, the rumours that run along the street; they are familiar with the catchwords and phrases of the period, its conventions, questions, modes of discussion, and style of argument. And all is presented with the utmost realism, so grouped round the central figure as to form a perfect historical picture, He and His setting being so built together as to constitute a single organic whole. Now this appears a feat which the mythical imagination, working with material derived from the Old Testament, could not have performed. It could not have made its hero mythical without making the conditions under which He lived and the persons with whom He lived the same. The realism of these conditions and persons is incompatible with the mythical idealism of Him through whom they are, and whose environment they constitute. The organic unity of person and history seems to involve the reality of both.

It appears, then, as if the legitimate inference from the histories themselves were that we have in Jesus a study from life—the portrait of one who actually lived and as He lived. And it is this which gives peculiar value to the fact that the authors of the Gospels use to describe their subject two distinct classes of terms, expressing ideas that must have been as opposite to them as they are to us, which we differentiate, though they did not, as “natural” and “supernatural.” He appears in all four Gospels as the son of Mary, as known to the inhabitants of Nazareth, where he had; been brought up, though all they tell us is that He was a citizen of that mean city, and a member of one of its; humblest families. He is described as growing in stature, in wisdom, and in favour with God and man. The one glimpse we have into His boyhood shows Him as a child His parents could lose and seek sorrowing; and in His manhood and public ministry He is seen to share our common human weaknesses. He is represented as weary, as hungry, as thirsty, as angry, as suffering, as in need of sympathy, as seeking God in prayer, as shrinking from death, as dying, and as dead. The attributes and the fate of universal man are His as they are ours. But He also appears, as we have just seen, clothed in quite other attributes and doing quite extraordinary things. He is to all four Evangelists the Son of God, the Messiah, Lord of the Sabbath, and Saviour of men, with power on earth to forgive sins, to establish the kingdom of God, to found a new covenant in His blood, and to judge the people, acquitting or condemning them as they have or have not confessed Him. And He behaves as one to whom such acts and attributes can be ascribed. He calls disciples, and forms them into an eternal and universal society. He works miracles, heals the diseased, casts out devils, feeds the hungry, even raises the dead. He has miracles worked upon Him, is transfigured and appears in a visible glory which proclaims Him the Son of God, and, after suffering the death of the Cross and being laid in the grave, He is raised up and appears unto many.

Now the remarkable thing is not simply that these attributes and acts are represented as His, but that they are conceived as quite natural to Him, as not making Him anomalous or abnormal, but as leaving Him simple and rational and real,—a person who never ceases to be Himself, who has no double consciousness and plays no double part, but expresses Himself in history according to the nature He has and the truth within Him. There is nothing quite like this in literature, no miraculous person who is so truly natural, so continuously one and the same; and no writers of the miraculous who so feel that they are dealing with what is normal and regular through and through. These are things which have more than a psychological interest; they speak of men who have stood face to face with the reality, and are conscious of only describing what they saw.

  • 1.

    Ante, pp. 307–8.

  • 2.

    Luke ii. 51; cf. 41, 43.

  • 3.

    Mark vi. 3; Matt. xiii. 55.

  • 4.

    Luke iv. 22; John vi. 42.

  • 5.

    Luke ii. 48.

  • 6.

    John i. 45.

  • 7.

    Mark viii. 32; Matt. xvi. 22.

  • 8.

    Mark ix. 5, xi. 21; John i. 38.

  • 9.

    Mark iii. 21; cf. 31–35; Matt. xii. 46–49, xiii. 57; Luke viii. 19–21.

  • 10.

    Mark ii. 7; Matt. ix. 3.

  • 11.

    Matt. ix. 34.

  • 12.

    Mark v. 39; Matt. ix. 24.

  • 13.

    John vii. 47.

  • 14.

    John vii. 52.

  • 15.

    Matt. xxii. 15 ff.; Mark xii. 13.

  • 16.

    Luke v. 30; xv. 2; Mark ii. 16.

  • 17.

    Luke vi. 7; Mark iii. 6.

  • 18.

    Luke xx. 19, 20.

  • 19.

    Mark xii. 18–27; Luke xx. 27–40.

  • 20.

    John xi. 47; cf. Mark xii. 13–17; xiv. 1–2; Luke xx. 17–26.

  • 21.

    Matt. xxi. 8–11; Luke xix. 35–40, 47, 48; John xii. 12–15.

  • 22.

    Luke xiii. 1.

  • 23.

    John xi. 49, 50.

  • 24.

    Matt, xxvii. 24; John xviii. 31, 37, xix. 6.

  • 25.

    Josephus, Antiq. xviii. iii. 1–2.

  • 26.

    Luke xiii. 1.

  • 27.

    Luke xxiii. 4–7, 13–22; John xix. 8–9, 12, 19–22.

  • 28.

    John xviii. 38, 39.

  • 29.

    Matt. xxvi. 59–65; Mark xiv. 55–63; Luke xxii. 66–71; John xviii 19–24.

  • 30.

    John xviii. 31.

  • 31.

    Mark xv. 2; John xviii. 33; xix. 21–22.

  • 32.

    Mark xv. 3; Luke xxiii. 3.

  • 33.

    John xviii. 36–38.

  • 34.

    John xix. 12.

  • 35.

    John xix. 10.

  • 36.

    i. 1.

  • 37.

    i. 2–3.

  • 38.

    i. 7, 8.

  • 39.

    i. 11.

  • 40.

    i. 14, 15.

  • 41.

    xiii. 10; xiv. 9.

  • 42.

    i. 16–20.

  • 43.

    ii. 28.

  • 44.

    ii. 5–11.

  • 45.

    i. 23–28, 30, 31, 40–45; ii. 3–12; iv. 35–41; v. 21–43; vii. 24–37 et al.

  • 46.

    x. 45.

  • 47.

    xiv. 24.

  • 48.

    i. 1.

  • 49.

    Matt. i. 23.

  • 50.

    Mark ii. 1–12.

  • 51.

    iv. 1–11.

  • 52.

    iii. 13–15.

  • 53.

    iv. 18–22.

  • 54.

    v. 17.

  • 55.

    vii. 21–27; x. 32, 33.

  • 56.

    xi. 27.

  • 57.

    vi. 33; x. 34–42.

  • 58.

    xi 30.

  • 59.

    xxviii. 18–20.

  • 60.

    iii. 38.

  • 61.

    Luke i. 32–35; ii. 13, 14.

  • 62.

    John i. 1–2, 14, 18.

  • 63.

    Ante, pp. 10–12.