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The Founder of Christianity by C. H. Dodd

C.H. Dodd is recognized as one of the great New Testament scholars of the twentieth century. Dr. Dodd was for many years Professor of New Testament at Cambridge University. Published by the MacMillan Company, New York, 1970. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

Chapter 2: The Documents

The New Testament contains at least one book which is offered to the reader as an historical composition in the full sense. It is a history of the Beginnings of Christianity, in two parts or volumes. Volume I we know as the Gospel according to Luke, Volume II as the Acts of the Apostles. The date of the two-volume work is uncertain; presumably some time elapsed between the publication of the two parts. If we take AD. 75 and 95 as the outside limits, we shall probably not go far wrong. The author has been identified, from the time when the New Testament writings were first collected, as the Greek physician Luke who was for some years on the "staff" of the apostle Paul, and this may be right. Of his aim and method he has told us something in an "epistle dedicatory" addressed to a person of high rank named Theophilus, of whom nothing further is known. He writes as follows:

Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account of the events that have happened among us, following the traditions handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants of the gospel. And so I in my turn, your Excellency, as one who has gone over the whole course of these events in detail, have decided to write a connected narrative for you, so as to give you authentic knowledge about the matters of which you have been informed.1

It was a literary convention of the period to introduce an historical work in some such way, but it is of course possible to conform to a literary convention and yet to speak the truth. Obviously, by introducing his work in this way Luke means it to be taken as an historical work. It seems fair to assume that he writes in good faith, whatever may be thought of his competence as an historian. We may take it then that he was acquainted with a tradition handed down from eyewitnesses and of written narratives based upon it. He claims to have undertaken an independent investigation -- dealing, we infer, both with the oral tradition and with the documentary sources -- and to have made out of his findings a connected narrative. This claim we have no reason to doubt. Critical analysis confirms that both written sources and oral tradition have entered into the composition, but that tile continuity has, in both volumes, been largely supplied by the author. His intelligent efforts to produce a satisfactory chronological scheme have met with much difficulty and less than complete success.

Of his written sources one at least can be identified with certainty. It is no other than our Gospel according to Mark, to which we must give attention presently. To this source Luke owes a large part of his narrative (as distinct from his report of the teaching of Jesus), and he usually, though not always, prefers it to the other "accounts of the events" with which he was acquainted, and which he has sometimes followed. A substantial part of his report of the sayings of Jesus (as distinct from the narrative) is closely parallel, sometimes even verbally identical, with the report given in the Gospel according to Matthew. To the latter work we must now turn.

It is in certain ways strikingly different from the Gospel according to Luke. Its author never comes before us in person, as Luke does. He tells us nothing about his purpose or his procedure, or about the sources to which he went for information. While Luke’s history is an individual venture, Matthew’s work appears to be something more like an officially sponsored textbook for the instruction of converts to the church. Its date cannot be determined, nor is there any wide agreement about it among critics, but it is (in my judgment) not likely to be any earlier than Luke’s history of the Beginnings. The name of Matthew has always been attached to it, but it is improbable that the apostle of that name was its author, though he may well have sponsored some of the material it embodies. For narrative it depends almost exclusively on Mark. But the interest of the work is centered much more on the report of the sayings of Jesus. Here it is richer than Luke, and the material is far more elaborately organized, obviously with an eye to its effective use for teaching.

If we enquire after the sources from which the author derived the sayings, the answer must depend on minute critical analysis, and is never likely to be more than probable. It seems that he drew from a variety of sources, written or oral, and that he has edited them more or less. One thing, however, we can say with reasonable certainty is that the large body of sayings which he gives in common with Luke must have conic down to both, whether in writing or by word of mouth, from a period much earlier than the date at which the two authors wrote.2 It brings us that much nearer to the fountainhead.

It is thus to Matthew and Luke that we look for our fullest report of the teaching of Jesus, and it will be convenient to give some attention to this before turning to the narrative. What is the character of this report, and how did it come to be compiled?

The early church was a society which did its business in the world chiefly through the living voice, in preaching, teaching and worship. And it was mainly through the living voice that the sayings of Jesus were first handed down. From the way in which Paul introduces sayings which he quotes in his letters we should conjecture that he knew them from word of mouth rather than in writing, though some of them may already have been written down, if only by way of aide-memoire for the convenience of teachers. At any rate by the date at which Paul was writing -- say, some quarter of a century after the death of Jesus -- there was already in circulation a body of accepted "sayings of the Lord" to which he could appeal in the confidence that his correspondents would acknowledge their authority. That collections of such sayings should be made -- some here, some there, by various persons -- to serve the practical needs of the church, was in the nature of things, and these collections of sayings provided the gospel writers with much of their raw material.

Oral tradition is a somewhat precarious vehicle. Memory can play tricks; many a slip is possible between the hearing of a thing and its repetition to another person. True; but there are some considerations to be set against this. The earliest Christians were Jews. Among Jews of that period it was well understood that a disciple was responsible for remembering and faithfully handing on the teaching of his master. We need not suppose that the disciples of Jesus were either less conscientious or less competent than the disciples of other teachers. The question, indeed, whether we have his very words is one which, put in that form, cannot be answered. He spoke in Aramaic; we have his sayings in a Greek translation, made, presumably, by bilingual Christians who did their best to give the sense. We sometimes find different attempts to translate the same saying. Nor, so far as we can judge, was the same stress laid upon word-for-word repetition as in the Jewish schools. Those through whom the tradition came down were practical teachers. They were concerned to carry the meaning across to their hearers. They might recast a saying to make it more directly applicable to the existing situation, which might be unlike that in which the words were spoken. Or they might insert an explanatory comment, and the comment would come to form part of the tradition. Or again, contemporary debate with the non-Christian public they wished to win, or even within the Christian community itself, might lead them to a possibly unbalanced elaboration of certain aspects of the sayings. But the intention was always to hand on what Jesus himself taught, and to bring this home to the hearers or readers.

When all allowance has been made for these limiting factors -- the chances of oral transmission, the effect of translation, the interest of teachers in making the sayings "contemporary," and simple human fallibility -- it remains that the first three gospels offer a body of sayings on the whole so consistent, so coherent, and withal so distinctive in manner, style content, that no reasonable critic should doubt, whatever reservations he may have about individual sayings, that we find reflected here the thought of a single, unique teacher.

To assume that these gospels give us a complete and rounded picture of the teaching of Jesus on all its sides would perhaps be going too far. A different angle is adopted in a work of which nothing has yet been said, the Gospel according to John. This has always been held to be the latest of the four, though it is perhaps the latest by a margin so narrow as to have little significance. It was brought out, in all probability, not far from AD. 100, possibly on the earlier side. In antiquity it was believed to have been written by John son of Zebedee, one of the inner circle of the disciples of Jesus. It may be so, but there are serious difficulties in the way of accepting his authorship. What is clear is that this gospel is more of an original composition than the others. Its style has an individuality of its own, which is clearly that of the author rather than of Jesus himself. In selecting matter to be included in his work he was guided by the needs and interests of the public for which he wrote. So indeed were the others; but his was the cosmopolitan and cultivated public of a great Greek city; the book was in all probability produced at Ephesus.

In presenting the teaching of Jesus he employed a method familiar to educated Greek readers. It began with Plato, who presented the teaching of his master Socrates through dialogues which are his own composition, in his own inimitable style, and yet have given to succeeding ages a convincing picture of that remarkable man. The "set pieces" of the Fourth Gospel, composed with great art, are comparable with the Greek philosophical dialogue. Yet dispersed among these elaborate literary compositions, or even embedded in them, there are sayings which stand out because they have the familiar ring. Some indeed are recognizably identical with sayings reported in the other gospels, though the wording may differ because the writer has his own linguistic habits, and sometimes he gives what seems to be a different translation of the same Aramaic original. In addition, on a closer examination of the dialogues and discourses it often turns out that the writer is only spelling out, in his own idiom of thought, what is already implicit in sayings reported in the other gospels. All this encourages the belief that the writer drew from the same general reservoir of tradition. That reservoir, we may be sure, contained more than has come through in our written gospels. There are sayings of Jesus recorded only in the Fourth Gospel which seem to bring into relief aspects of his teachings slenderly represented, if at all, in the others, and these may be of importance to complete the picture. It would be unwise to neglect them, though to make use of them in a strictly historical investigation calls for some critical tact.

So far our attention has been concentrated on the gospel record of the teaching of Jesus. It would have been possible for this teaching to be put before the public in the form of a collection of sayings. There are in fact such collections known to us, though of somewhat later date, and it is probable, as we have seen, that similar collections lay before the writers of the gospels. But it is evident that these did not satisfy the demands of the Christian community, for the four writings which were selected as authoritative have the character of narratives into which sayings are inserted at suitable or significant points. We must now consider the narrative constituent of the gospels.

Our natural starting point will be the Gospel according to Mark, which provides the main basis of the narrative in Matthew and Luke. It is probably to be dated between AD. 65 and 70, or thereabouts -- just about the time when the first generation of Christians was dying off, but when many who remembered the events must still have been alive. Whether Mark was one of these we cannot say; he may have been, but in any case there is little in his book to suggest that he had been a witness of the events he records. An examination of his work suggests that he was less of an author and more of a compiler than the others. That is to say, he appears to have reproduced what came down to him with comparatively little attempt to write it up in his own way, unlike Luke, who composes with an eye to literary effect and with an effort to give some semblance of chronological continuity, and unlike Matthew, who presents his material with a sure pedagogical touch. In Mark, within a very broad general scheme, there is a certain freedom and looseness of arrangement, and in his rather rough and informal style we seem often to overhear the tones of the living voice telling a story. We are probably near to the "original eyewitnesses and servants of the gospel" to whom Luke refers. By "servants of the gospel" he means Christian missionaries who spread the faith in the earliest days. In defining the contents of his book as "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," rather than "Memoirs of Jesus" or the like, Mark has made it clear that he conceives himself as continuing, through the medium of writing, the same work which the missionaries were doing through the living voice. Elsewhere in the New Testament the term "gospel" always means the Christian message as preached; its now familiar use, as meaning a book about Jesus, developed later, and Mark was very likely responsible, indirectly, for this development.

The manner in which the "servants of the gospel" communicated their message may be gathered from the abridged specimens of early Christian preaching which Luke has supplied in his second volume.3 They are represented as declaring (to summarize with impossible brevity) that the divinely guided history of Israel has reached a climax of "fulfillment." A new era has dawned; a community has come into existence -- in effect a new Israel -- in which there is offered forgiveness for the past, spiritual power for the present, and hope for the future. It has its creative center in the Messiah, whom God has sent, and this is no other than Jesus of Nazareth, recently crucified and now risen from the dead. Thus the whole tremendous crisis is linked with the historical career of Jesus, and it becomes important to have some trustworthy knowledge of this. Mark has set out to provide what is required. The themes of the preaching are there: the note of "fulfillment," the emergence of a community, the offer of forgiveness, the outlook on the future, the whole receiving its impulse from Jesus, what he said, what he did, what happened to him. Mark is preaching the gospel; he is doing it by telling a story belonging to the world of actual fact: the world in which Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate played the parts on the public stage which secular historians ascribe to them; the world in which the machinery of Roman rule operated in ways known to all students of the period; the world which was disturbed by the familiar tensions and conflicts of the last half century of the Jewish state.

There is thus a double strain in his work. It contains a report of certain happenings, together with, and inseparably interwoven with, an interpretation of these happenings. The same double strain, fact plus interpretation, reappears in Matthew and Luke. The three differ in some matters of factual detail, and to some extent in the way in which they express the significance they attach to the events; but the differences are not of substance. In the Fourth Gospel, interpretation is more deliberate and self-conscious, and it employs more sophisticated theological concepts. These concepts are in part derived from a religious philosophy widely current at the time in the Greek-speaking East, though here they come out very differently. Essentially, however, all four gospels alike have the character of fact plus interpretation.

The tension between these two constituents of the narrative has provided much of the interest of critical debate upon the gospels during the last century or more. And indeed there has been, and is, a similar debate among secular historiographers, and the phases through which criticism has passed have to a striking degree kept pace in the biblical and the secular fields. In the nineteenth century (which for this purpose as for many others ended in 1914). critics tended on the whole to say: strip off the interpretation so far as possible; it only tells us what some early Christians thought or believed; the residue will be plain matter of fact. The trouble was that as criticism refined its methods while following its own logic the area of what could be accepted as sheer, uninterpreted matter of fact shrank almost to nothing. It was, as one of them said, like peeling an onion. So in the present century many critics have said, in effect: let us look again at what we discarded. It may not have much value as evidence for the facts of the life of Jesus, but it is at any rate undeniable first-hand evidence for the faith of the early church, and this is well worth studying. So indeed it is. The turnabout did much to revivify gospel criticism, which, to tell the truth, had grown somewhat stale. But some of the new criticism went so far as to say that the gospels can give us nothing but the ideas of early Christians. They do not convey information about Jesus himself as he lived; that was something to which their authors were indifferent; they meant to produce religious, not historical, documents.

This was an overstatement of an important truth which had been sometimes rather overlooked. The gospels are indeed religious documents; they do bear witness to the faith of the church; but that is not to say that they are not also historical documents or that their authors had no interest in tile facts. Unless Luke is grossly misleading his readers, he set out, like his predecessors in the field, "to draw up an account of tile events that have happened," in order to convey authentic knowledge about them. And since he treated Mark as a valuable, though by no means an infallible, source of information, we may take it that he regarded Mark as an historical as well as a religious document; and it seems impossible to deny a similar character to the other two gospels as well.

The truth is that the attempt to make a sharp division between fact and interpretation and set them over against one another is misguided, whether it takes the form of seeking to establish the facts by eliminating the interpretation, or of attending exclusively to interpretation, and dismissing the question of fact as irrelevant. To the serious historian (as distinct from the mere chronicler) the interest and meaning which an event bore for those who felt its impact is a part of the event. This is now widely recognized in secular historiography. But it is of peculiar significance in a Christian context. In the Hebrew-Christian type of religion, events are held to be the medium through which God discloses his ways to men. This is the belief that runs all through the Old Testament. In the New Testament the divine disclosure is held to be made supremely in what Luke calls "the facts about Jesus." 4

These facts are communicated with the intention of bringing out as forcibly as possible the meaning which our authors believed to be their true meaning. In that sense the gospels are an expression of the faith of the church. The hinge on which that faith turned was the belief that Jesus, having been put to death by crucifixion, "rose from the dead." This is not a belief that grew up within the church, or a doctrine whose development might be traced. It is the central belief about which the church itself grew, without which there would have been no church and no gospels, at least of the kind we have. So much the historian must affirm; upon the truth or falsity of the belief he is not obliged, or indeed entitled, to pronounce. About this belief in the resurrection of Jesus more will have to be said later, but for our present purpose it is important to note that the various stories about the "appearances" of the risen Christ to his followers -- which differ considerably in the several gospels and perhaps cannot be fully harmonized -- have one constant feature in common. They clearly do not refer to anything in the nature of a vague "mystical experience"; they are all centered in a moment of recognition. You cannot recognize a person unless you remember him. Thus an act of remembrance -- the remembrance of a real and well-known person -- is a built-in feature of the faith that inspired the writing of the gospels. For the original "eyewitnesses and servants of the gospel," the memory was quite recent. But it was a memory now illuminated by a discovery that left them at first gasping with astonishment: that the Leader they had thought irretrievably lost had got the better of death itself, in a way as inexplicable as it was indubitable. So at least they believed, and it put the whole story in a new light. Thus the gospels record remembered facts, but record them as understood on the farther side of resurrection. There is no reason why this should be supposed to falsify or distort the record, unless, of course, it be assumed at the outset that such a belief cannot be true. Short of this, it is legitimate to recall that "hindsight" often gives a clue to happenings which at the time did not make sense. In the gospels we are not infrequently told that not only the general public, but his own followers, failed to understand some things that Jesus said and did. The implication is that now they did understand; and that seems reasonable enough.

But if this is so, there is something more to be said. If the resurrection is the true dénouement of the whole story and not a "happy ending" tacked on to a tragedy, then there is an element in the story itself which brings us to the frontiers of normal human experience, where experience runs out into mystery. It is a story about things that actually happened, but in the light of the sequel they have an extra dimension. Such a story could not be told wholly in terms of matter of fact, in straight, literal prose. It required the aid of symbolism and imagery. For this purpose the narrators had at their disposal an inherited stock of images and symbols derived largely from Jewish poetry and prophecy. This determines the idiom in which the story is told, an idiom not merely of language but of thought and even of feeling, with which the reader needs to put himself in sympathy.

The author of the Fourth Gospel, at the point at which he is about to launch Out upon his account of the public career of Jesus, tells his readers what they are to look out for: "You will see heaven wide open, and God’s angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." 5 John does not mean that he is going to describe a scene in which winged beings are visibly flying up and down; there is no such scene in the gospels. He means that in the whole story, and in each item of it, the discerning reader will perceive a traffic between two worlds. He will read how in this unique career heaven and earth, God and man, were brought together as nowhere else.

But this symbolism could also be used in the description of particular occurrences. Not only in John but in all the gospels, with slight variations, we read that when Jesus was baptized "he saw the heavens torn wide open and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him," while a voice spoke from heaven. It is idle to ask what actually happened, if by that you mean, what was there that might have been photographed on film or recorded on tape, had such convenient facilities been available. But in a deeper and more real sense "what actually happened" on this occasion was something very important indeed. It was, as we say, an "historic occasion." It was a turning point in the career of Jesus himself, and a crucial moment in that traffic of two worlds of which John spoke. Its profound significance could be suggested only by the use of the most solemn and impressive imagery.

Symbols and images of this kind cluster thickly in the scenes of the "Christmas story" which in Matthew and Luke is the prelude to their account of the public career of Jesus: visits of angels, prophetic dreams, the marvelous star in the east, the miraculous birth greeted with songs from the heavenly choir, all the appealing incidents so familiar in the appropriate setting of Christmas carol and nativity play. That there is a basis of fact somewhere behind it all need not be doubted, but he would be a bold man who should presume to draw a fine line between fact and symbol. What our authors are saying through all this structure of imagery is that the obscure birth of a child to a carpenter’s wife was, in view of all that came out of it, a decisive moment in history, when something genuinely new began, and the traffic of two worlds was initiated, to be traced by the discerning eye all through the story that was to follow.

This use of symbolism is fundamentally poetical. It is not a flight into fantasy. It means that the facts are being viewed in depth, not superficially. This must be taken into account when we consider the stories of miracles which have so large a place in some parts of the gospels. In the Fourth Gospel these are treated frankly as "signs." that is, symbols. Not that John thought they did not happen, but their happening was of less interest to him than their meaning. If Jesus is said to have cured blindness, it is a "sign" that he brings spiritual "illumination" (the symbolism is embedded in our language); if he feeds a multitude on an impossibly slender allowance of loaves and fishes, it is again a sign of the nourishment of the soul with the life of Christ himself. In this gospel the symbolism is integrated into a massive theology. But in the earlier gospels also it is present, though in a simpler -- perhaps we should say a more naïve -- way. Whatever else may be the value of the miracle stories, at least they are all intended to affirm that where Jesus was, the presence and power of God made itself felt. And this was so from the beginning; it was remembered.

If anyone chooses to read the miracle stories of the gospels as pictorial symbols of the power of spiritual renewal which the first Christians found in their encounter with Jesus, without raising the question whether it all happened just like that, he is not far from the intention of John at least, and possibly of the others. That the total impact of Jesus upon his generation had this quality is a strongly attested fact, and it has far-reaching significance.

But there is perhaps something more that might be said about the credibility of these stories as (ostensibly) factual, though the question of their factual accuracy has not the importance sometimes attached to it. Are miracles "impossible"? It would probably be wise to use the term with some caution. With the flood of fresh discoveries about the behavior of matter, and of mind, we hardly know what is, and what is not, possible. But whether or not they are impossible, it is said, at any rate "miracles don’t happen." Certainly they do not happen in ordinary circumstances. But the whole point of the gospels is that the circumstances were far from ordinary. They were incidental to a quite peculiar situation, unprecedented and unrepeatable. It was the inauguration of a new set of relations between God and man. A miracle in the sense of the New Testament is not so much a breach of the laws of nature (a concept which would have had little meaning for most people of the time), but rather a remarkable or exceptional occurrence which brought an undeniable sense of the presence and power of God. It may be that if we had been there we might have found a "scientific" explanation of what the early Christians regarded as miraculous; and it is legitimate enough to use such knowledge as we now have, for instance, about the treatment of psychosomatic disorders, as a help toward the explanation of some of the cures reported in the gospels. But even so we should not have explained just that element in the occurrences which made them worth recording -- the overwhelming impression of "the finger of God," in the vivid phrase attributed to Jesus himself.

So much seemed worth saying, to meet the objection that the mere presence of miracle stories in the gospels discredits them as historical records. Certainly they are primarily documents of the faith of the earliest Christians; but it must be added that this faith acted as a preservative of genuinely historical memories without which it would never have arisen. That these memories should include some unexplained features is in the nature of the case.

Assuming, then, that we have here narratives which ask to be treated seriously, though not uncritically, as a record of things that happened, we may for a moment look more closely at their composition and structure. This may throw light on the character of their contents. In spite of differences, all four follow broadly a common pattern. The attentive reader cannot fail to be struck with the amount of space allotted in them all to the closing stages of the story: the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus, and the events immediately preceding and following. If the gospels were offered as "Lives of Jesus," this allocation of space would be out of proportion. The intention of the writers is unmistakable: to lay all possible emphasis on these closing scenes because of their intrinsic importance.

That they should have made an indelible impression on the memory of those who were involved in them, and on the imagination of those to whom the story was first told, we could well understand. But that is not all. From writings outside the gospels we know that in early Christian belief (to put it very broadly and without detail) the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ had the character of a decisive conflict in which the powers of evil did their worst and the sovereignty of God was conclusively asserted for the salvation of mankind. These events therefore were of more than merely historical interest; and yet it was important to affirm that the conflict did indeed take place on the field of history, and in relation to real problems arising out of human nature and society as they are. The problems are perennial; they took a particular form in the years when Pontius Pilate governed Judaea and Caiaphas was high priest in Jerusalem. Three of the most permanent factors in history were involved. Rome stood for political order, the priests and Pharisees for institutional religion, the Zealots for patriotism. All are good things, but we know only too well how they can become perverted, and how each of them can afford both stimulus and opportunity to the baser passions of mankind. Such was the situation that Jesus faced. The authors of the gospels would have us see how in that situation the cause of God was vindicated.

That is why they lay such stress on this part of their story; and not they alone, but the "original eyewitnesses and servants of the gospel" who transmitted the memories on which they worked. So much indeed we might gather from the brief summaries of the early preaching; and critical analysis of the gospels themselves leads us to believe that behind them lay at least three distinct and independent traditions about the closing events.6 These must have been shaped in different environments and transmitted through different channels. It is therefore remarkable that, while they vary in detail as honest witnesses will vary in reporting matters which have touched them deeply, they follow the same thread of narrative. This must represent the story as it was told in the earliest days, when memories were still fresh. While the purpose of the authors in telling the story is clear, they have suggested its deeper meaning only by hints here and there. The tone is one of sober, unemotional realism, allowing the events to make their own impression by their inherent weight.

In these closing chapters the march of events is unbroken, as the narrative moves, with gathering intensity, toward the final catastrophe and recovery. The structure of the remaining parts of the gospels stands in strong contrast. There is little real continuity. What we find is a series of separate scenes -- snapshots rather than a movie -- and the four writers, who in the closing scenes were constrained to follow a fixed order of events, use a large liberty in arranging the separate stories they tell, and the arrangement comes out differently in each of them. As a rule, each scene forms a unit by itself, usually concise and stylized, driving home some particular point, with little attention to details which do not affect this point. A very large proportion of them make use of an incident, briefly sketched, to introduce a pregnant saying of Jesus. They are, in fact, a medium for conveying his teaching, just as much as are those sections of the gospels which are expressly devoted to a report of his sayings. It has been observed that where we have more than one version of a scene, the different versions generally agree rather closely in the report of what Jesus said, but use more freedom in telling the story which provides the occasion for it. A comparatively small number of these units of narrative can properly be described as "tales" about things that Jesus did, in which our authors spread themselves in picturesque or dramatic detail. And here again we note the same freedom of treatment, in contrast with the relative fixity of the report of the sayings. On occasion, details "wander" from one tale to another in the several gospels. We are led to suppose that the earliest tradition contained a wealth of reminiscences, informal, unorganized, but full of characteristic traits, and that out of these the stylized narratives were shaped, to serve the needs of preachers and teachers.

What emerges is a lively picture of the kind of thing that Jesus did, the kind of attitude which his actions revealed, the kind of relations in which he stood with various types of people he encountered, and the causes of friction between him and the religious leaders. The question, how far this or that story may be taken as an accurate account of what happened on this or that occasion is one upon which judgments will vary. Some, as they stand, may be found more credible than others. One or the other may be felt to be not in character. But taken together, these stories, told from many different points of view, converge to give a distinct impression of a real person in action upon a recognizable scene. When we add the wealth of sayings transmitted as such without any narrative setting, the total picture is enriched and given color and depth. It is upon this total picture that our reading of the personality and the career of the Founder of Christianity must be based.


1. Luke 1. 1-2.

2. Attempts which are made to show that Luke is based on Matthew (or, alternatively, Matthew on Luke) have not, in my judgment, succeeded. It still seems highly probable that both drew upon some common source, or sources, though few critics would now think it possible to reconstruct a supposed docment containing all the common material.

3. Specimens of early Christian preaching are to be found in Acts 2. 14-39, 3. 13-26, 10. 36-43, 13. 17-41.

4. Acts 18.25.

5. John 1.51.

6. I have given reasons for this conclusion in Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel, pp. 21-36.

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