Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History

By Maurice Goguel (1926)



The Gospel tradition is presented in the form of four narratives,[1] whose parentage is certain and whose three first members are even parallel for a considerable part of their content. Before it is possible to come to any conclusion concerning this tradition there is a question of literary history to be solved—that of the relations which these narratives have to each other.[2] It is necessary to examine the group of the first three Gospels, known as the Synoptics, and the fourth separately.[3]

The most ancient of the Synoptics is the Gospel of Mark. It must have been composed—perhaps at Rome—at a date a little later than A.D. 70. Its author seems to have been of Palestine origin, perhaps the John-Mark of whom the book of Acts speaks (Acts xii. 25). It is a work of some complexity, whose author has utilized traditions of different sources, doubtless inserting them into the framework created by him.

Among these sources the two best are a collection of narratives going back to the apostle Peter, which were the echo of his missionary preaching, and a selection of discourses, the Logia, whose first origin seems very ancient, but of which Mark has

[1] We may neglect the Apocryphal Gospels, for in what has been preserved to us there is nothing which is not of secondary importance when compared with the Canonical Gospels.

[2] For the defence in detail of the theory which we here present in summary we refer readers to our Introduction to the New Testament, Parts I and II.

[3] Without dwelling on the fact that the attribution of the second Gospel to Mark cannot be regarded as rigorously proved, we shall call its author Mark for the sake of convenience, just as we shall call the authors of the three others respectively Matthew, Luke and John, whilst the attribution of the third Gospel to Luke is very debatable, and that of the first and fourth to Matthew and John is certainly not established.


borrowed relatively little, doubtless because he knew it was in the hands of readers for whom his work was designed.

Some ten years or so after its composition the Gospel of Mark seems to have undergone some revision which has not perceptibly modified its general aspect.

The Logia with which Mark was acquainted, and which he used with discretion, should in our opinion be considered rather as a collection than as a literary work well put together and arranged according to a rational plan. This collection became richer as it grew, and by that very fact more varied in character, because (as would be natural) each person inserted in it sayings and discourses attributed to Jesus of which he knew, but which had been neglected or ignored by the first editors. It is still possible to distinguish with sufficient precision three stages of the collection. The first, which no doubt is not the primitive form but only the most ancient within our reach, is made up of elements of the collection which Matthew and Luke have borrowed and which appear in their versions in the same order. It is one form of this primitive stage that Mark seems to have known and made use of. The two other stages are those which Matthew on one side and Luke on the other had at their disposal. To each must be attributed not only those portions which Matthew and Luke possess in common, and are wanting in Mark, but also other portions which are only found in one of them, but belong to the same type as the portions common to both,[1] or which are in close relationship with them.[2] Some are found in the first and in the third Gospels in forms which differ too much from each other to permit of their belonging to the same source.[3]

The Gospels of Matthew and of Luke are, to put it simply, two attempts, parallel but independent of each other, to concentrate the Gospel tradition. Their authors (who appear to have worked,

[1] This is the case, for instance, for a certain number of parables which are only found in Matthew or only in Luke.

[2] For instance, the curses only found in Luke (vi. 24-6) and which are in organic relationship with the Beatitudes (vi. 20-3), which latter are also found in Matthew (v. 3-10).

[3] For example, the Beatitudes in Matthew (v. 3-10) and Luke (vi. 20-3) are in forms too widely different from each other to allow of the differences being explained by editorial work, but which are, however, too similar to permit us to consider them as independent.


Luke somewhere between the years 75 and 85, and Matthew between 80 and 90) desired to write in one single work the two principal documents existing in their time upon the Gospel history: the narrative of Mark and the Logia. Furthermore, both gleaned from various subsidiary sources. Luke's aim, moreover, was to give a coherent account, complete and well arranged. His work thus shows an attempt to include narratives which originally were works of edification into the literary domain proper. Notwithstanding this, the Gospel of Luke is of the same type as those of Mark and Matthew.

The fourth Gospel must have been composed between the years 90 and 110. Although it is, like the Synoptic Gospels, an apologetic and missionary and not an historical work, it possesses certain features which are peculiar to it. It assumes that its readers not only are familiar with the Gospel tradition, but also that they have certain narratives in their hands (most probably our Synoptic Gospels) to which it frequently alludes, either by explicitly correcting them on some points or in supposing as known to its readers certain facts to which it makes no allusion itself, but which are recorded therein. The fourth evangelist did not claim to substitute his work for that of his predecessors; to a fairly large extent it would not be clearly intelligible without them; he only desired, on the basis they offered him, to develop a certain number of meditations upon themes of the Gospel history which he has inserted (a fact betraying the influence of the type created by the Synoptics) between a narrative about the opening of the ministry of Jesus and one concerning the Passion.

The objective of the fourth evangelist—essentially theological and religious—being admitted, a very delicate problem is encountered concerning the methods used by him. Some critics, like Jean Reville[1] and M. Loisy,[2] consider that all the deviations from the three first Gospels which are found in the fourth are explicable in terms of allegory and symbolism; others, like Godet,[3] and Zahn,[4] and in a less absolute manner the Father

[1] Jean Reville, Le quatrième évangile, son origine, sa valeur historique.

[2] Alfred Loisy, Le quatrième évangile. In his second edition M. Loisy has modified certain points of the theory defended in the first.

[3] Frederic Godet, Commentaire sur l'Évangile de Saint Jean.

[4] Theodor Zahn, Das Evangelium des Johannes ausgelegt.


Calmes,[1] think that John, in order to correct the narratives of his predecessors, was guided by direct and personal experience. To a certain extent, however, the conservative critics agree that the souvenirs of the old apostle were somewhat vague, and that he did not distinguish with clearness between the Jesus he had followed in Galilee and Judea and the ideal Christ who lived in his heart. None of these theories seems to us to take complete account of all the somewhat complex factors of the problem. We believe that although he may not have attached great importance to historical necessities, the fourth evangelist was acquainted with data and written and oral traditions which it is impossible to reconstruct with precision, nor even to describe or date with certainty, but several of which show themselves to be excellent in comparison with the Synoptic tradition. Without having any intention to utilize historically the sources at his disposal, John has borrowed data from them; sometimes even it has happened that he has inserted some fragments in his own narrative. We should, for instance, be inclined to recognize some of these sources as evidence for the narratives which portray Jesus baptizing by the side of John (iii. 22), or coming to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (vii. 1, etc.), or as being arrested by the cohort led by the tribune (xviii. 3-12). These data are only preserved in the fourth Gospel in a sporadic manner, and this fact is characteristic—we would be prepared even to say symbolical. It shows that the Gospel literature was not primarily interested in the history of the ministry of Jesus. It only preserved the memory because of its religious value.


Luke, at the beginning of his book, tells Theophilus, to whom he dedicates it, that he had undertaken to write it to convince his friend of the certainty of the things in which he had been instructed (Luke i. 4). John also says in his conclusion that Jesus wrought many miracles besides those which he has recorded, and he continues in these words: "These have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and, believing, may have

[1] Calmes, L'Évangile selon Saint Jean.


life in His name" (xx. 31). A gospel, therefore, is before everything else, not a book of history, but a book of edification and religious teaching. History is the method of instruction; it is not an object in itself.

This is also shown by the examination of the word "gospel" itself. In the Greek Bible, if the word euanggelia[1] is only found in the material sense of good news,[2] the verb of the same root, euaggelizein, is sometimes met with—and particularly in the second book of Isaiah—having a sense which announces and prepares the way for the Christian idea of the gospel.[3] The Old Testament thus contains (at least implicitly) the idea of a gospel as the proclamation of a divine deliverance. That which invests this fact with its full significance is that the evangelists expressly portray the ministry of Jesus as the fulfilment of these prophecies.[4]

Upon Christian ground, it is with the apostle Paul that, so far as we know, there appears for the first time the word "gospel," sometimes without limitation as "the gospel," sometimes specialized as the "gospel of God," "my gospel," or the "gospel of Christ." The "gospel" in its unlimited sense is the doctrine preached by Paul, the mystery of the redemption of sinful humanity ransomed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. xv. 1), in this sense the gospel is the power of God (Rom. i. 16). From this fundamental signification is derived another, that of the preaching of redemption (Phil. i. 7 and ii. 22). The gospel of God is the gospel which comes from God, which the apostle has been charged by Him to preach

[1] Only in the feminine and not in the neuter, as in the Christian terminology. The neuter word appears for the first time in Greek. It is found in the plural in an inscription of Priene dating from 9 B.C. (text and translation in J. Rouffiac, Researches sur le Grèc du N.T. d'après les inscriptions de Priène). In this inscription concerning the introduction of the Julian calendar into Asia, Augustus is hailed as the "Saviour" of the world, and it is stated that "the day of the birth of the god was for the world the beginning of the good news which he brought." It must be noted that this inscription establishes no relation between the term signifying "good news" and the qualification of Saviour given to Augustus. The use of the plural shows that what is expected from the emperor are material advantages, not spiritual wealth.

[2] For instance, 2 Kings xviii. 20, 22, 27; 4 Kings vii. 9.

[3] For instance, Psa. xl. 10 and xcvi. 2; Isa. xl. 9, lii. 7, lx. 6 and lxi. i.

[4] Matt. xi. 5; Luke iv. 21, vii. 22.


(Rom. i. 1, xv. 16, etc.). As for the phrase "gospel of Christ," this is not to be understood in the sense of the teaching given by Jesus, but in that of the teaching of which Christ is the essence[1] (1 Cor. ix. 12, etc.). The gospel, therefore, to Paul meant the preaching whose subject or content was Christ the Redeemer. This is not a history, although the historical element may have its place and be at its base. It is the same conception also found in all the other books of the New Testament outside the Gospels. The books relating the history of Jesus are called Gospels because they were composed, not in an historical or biographical, but in a missionary interest. They are books of exposition of apostolic doctrine, preaching the Christian faith. "Gospel of Jesus Christ" in Mark i. 1 does not mean a gospel preached by Jesus Christ, but a doctrine whose essence and content is Jesus Christ. The author of the Gospel is only the interpreter of the doctrine of salvation. This it is which explains the objectivity with which works of this kind are called categorically "the Gospel," and the modesty with which their presumed authors are referred to is shown by the simple phrase "according to." It was only at a relatively late period that the word "gospel" was interpreted in the sense which subsequently prevailed—that is, a book which narrated the history of Jesus.

Jesus does not appear to have used the word "gospel" Himself.[2] It is only put into His mouth by Matthew and Mark,[3] each upon two occasions (Mark xiii. 10; Matt. xxiv. 14; Mark xiv. 9; Matt. xxvi. 13). In each passage the "gospel" means not the teaching of Jesus, but the future preaching of the apostles. In each it is more than doubtful whether the word "gospel" comes from Jesus Himself. In the first case, the editors have used the word which meant in the time they wrote "Christian teaching." As for the second, there are good reasons for thinking that the portion in which it is found (the episode of the ointment at

[1] For the justification of this statement see Maurice Goguel, Introd. au N.T., I, pp. 25-8.

[2] It is, of course, necessary to eliminate passages where the word "gospel" is used by the narrator (Mark i. 1, 14; Matt. iv. 23, ix. 25) and those where it is plainly put into the mouth of Jesus by Mark (i. 15, viii. 35, x. 29), but is not found in the parallel texts of Matthew and Luke.

[3] Luke has no parallel to these passages.


Bethany) did not form part of the most primitive deposit of the Gospel tradition, and in the solemn affirmation that the act of the woman would be narrated wherever the Gospel would be preached, there certainly seems to be a reminiscence of the period when this portion did not yet form part of the Gospel.[1]

With the Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists is seen the rise of the idea of a gospel as narrative or document alongside the idea of the gospel as a doctrine. That which we have seen concerning the meaning of the word "gospel" in the first Christian generations shows that it was not in an historical interest that the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus were collected, preserved, and committed to writing. The thought of the early Christians was entirely turned toward the future and not to the past. They expected the early return of Christ, whose task was to complete the work of redemption already begun, and all interest in organization was completely foreign to their minds. In so far as they had need of an authority, they found it in the Old Testament and in the persuasion that they had been inspired and guided by the Spirit. Still, it was impossible that those who had lived in the companionship of Jesus should not carefully preserve the memory of what He had been, of what He had said and done. For them these things were a source of inspiration and an example.

When upon the morrow of the Passion a Christian theology began to form, the meditations of the disciples of Jesus were centred around an historic fact, the death of the Lord. This death contradicted the impression produced by His life and teaching, since it represented Him as if abandoned and even cursed by God. The necessity of solving this contradiction was for Christian thought the most powerful of stimulants.

Jesus, for those who had lived with Him, had been the incarnation of the highest moral authority. They had formed the habit of looking to Him, of expecting His counsel, of being inspired by His example. He having disappeared, the moral authority of His personality did not disappear; it became transformed and attached itself to the memory of His acts and His words.

A triple interest, therefore, assured the preservation of memoirs

[1] Maurice Goguel, L'Évangile de Marc dans ses rapports avec ceux de Matthieu et de Luc, Paris, 1909; Introd., I, p. 298.


of the Gospel history—a sentimental interest first of all. Those who had been in contact with Jesus could not let His memory fade away in their minds and hearts; in the next place there was a moral interest, the words and actions of Jesus being considered as offering or inspiring the solution of the moral and practical problems which they found facing them; finally there was a theological interest, for it was impossible to ignore what they considered the human episode of the grand drama of redemption.

At the beginning, at least, no special value was attached to the tradition preserving a coherent history of the life of Jesus. From the speculative point of view, the sole thing of importance was the simple fact of His death; from the moral point of view, the important things were the words, the acts, the attitudes in which the soul of Jesus was manifested. Thus from the beginning the Church had need of traditions concerning His life, but fragmentary memoirs were amply sufficient for her needs.

It is to this situation that the Epistles of Paul, for instance, correspond which, as we have seen, presume the knowledge of many details of the Gospel history and the memory of many of the Master's words, but not a coherent, organic and systematic tradition about His life. Without doubt it was in a less definite form that the first evangelists found the substance of their narratives.


Two facts are thus understood which strike one at once when the Gospel tradition and the conditions in which it is presented are studied. The first is that we have neither in the canonical tradition nor in that which is extra-canonical any precise indication concerning the times in which the facts of Gospel history took place; the second is that the plan upon which this history is arranged in the Synoptics[1] is artificial. It was

[1] We only speak of the first three evangelists, since from what has just been said it follows that it is not admissible to speak of an historical or geographical framework of the fourth evangelist. The appearance of a framework is caused by the evangelist juxtaposing scenes and episodes by making use, as transitions between them, of feasts as reasons for the journeys of Jesus to Jerusalem.


arbitrarily created by the first evangelist to group together memoirs which tradition furnished him as isolated units.

It will be convenient to examine these two considerations in succession. As regards the appearance of Jesus in history, Paul merely says that God had sent Him in the fullness of time (Gal. iv. 4). This is a dogmatic concept which needs to be kept in mind as meaning that it was in the last period of the history of the world (that world to which Paul had the sentiment of belonging) that the Gospel history is to be assigned. This at once shows that the absence of all chronological details in Paul's writings must not be interpreted as a proof that in his thought the drama of redemption was devoid of all contact with historical reality. The close relationship which he establishes between the death of Christ and His return, which he believed to be imminent, also proves that it could only have been at a quite recent period that the Gospel drama had taken place.

It should be added that Paul had no reason to repeat in his Epistles what he doubtless on frequent occasions had expounded in .his oral teachings concerning the death of Jesus.

In the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and John the date of the death of Jesus is (indirectly, at any rate) indicated by the mention of Pilate, although the narrators did not mention him to give any chronological indication, but because of the part he had played in the history of Jesus.[1] The first writer in whose work there appears a real chronological sense is Luke, who indicates by a series of synchronisms (iii. 1, 2) the period at which the ministry of John the Baptist began. The value of the data which he gives is a question of small importance. The interesting thing is that he had considered it necessary to give them.[2]

The chronology of the life of Jesus presents in later tradition a singular vacillation. Certain authors—for instance, M. Salomon

[1] The same is the case with the passage in 1 Tim. vi. 13.

[2] Their value has recently been defended by Ed. Meyer and by C. Cichorius. The great uncertainty which prevents our dependence on these statements is that we know nothing of their origin. They cannot originate in Christian tradition, which, as we have seen, was not at the beginning interested in these questions. The fact that Jewish tradition, such as we know it through Josephus, has preserved the memory of John the Baptist permits one to suppose, as does Meyer, that it is from a Jewish source that Luke has borrowed them.


Reinach—have drawn from this an argument against the historical character of the tradition. Let us see how matters stand. Irenaeus (Haer., ii. 22-5) declares, basing his statement on the fourth Gospel and on the presbyters who had known John—that is to say upon the work of Papias,[1]—as admitted by all critics, that Jesus died not at the age of thirty, but at the age of fifty,[2] and it is certainly Irenaeus who is the authority for writers attesting the same belief.[3] Irenaeus is familiar with the canon of the four Gospels, and attributes to it an absolute value, leaving no place for the Aprocyphal Gospels.[4] It is, therefore, highly improbable that he was inspired by a tradition differing from theirs. His ideas originate in a particular interpretation of the Gospel data. Corssen has observed that in the very passage of which we are speaking Irenaeus declares that after His baptism Jesus came three times to Jerusalem for the Passover. In this statement he is in flagrant contradiction with himself. Two

[1] Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, was born doubtless about A.D. 85. He composed, about A.D. 140, a work in five books entitled Explanations of the Sayings of the Lord, of which Eusebius has preserved some fragments, and from which seem to proceed all the information which Irenaeus states he held from the presbyters. Eusebius states that Papias was a man of small mind, and indeed certain stories which he relates show that he must have been a very credulous man (Ecc. History, iii).

[2] The same idea is found in another treatise of Irenaeus, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.

[3] Traces of an analogous conception are found in other texts, for example in the letter from Pilate to Claudius which constitutes the most ancient portion of the "Acta Pilati," in the commentary of Hippolytus on Dan. iv. 23, etc. M. S. Reinach also cites the fact that "in a whole collection of Christian works of art, sarcophagi, carvings, mosaics, some of which go back to the fourth century, John baptizing Jesus is presented as a man of about fifty years old at least, whilst Jesus is a child of ten to twelve years old. Now, according to Josephus, the Baptist died several years before A.D. 36. If he baptized in the year 30, Jesus would have been born at the earliest in the years 18 or 20, and dying at the age of thirty he would have undergone the Passion towards the year 50 (still under the Emperor Claudius)." This cannot be put in accord with the tradition attested by Irenaeus, since the latter states that Jesus died, not at the age of thirty, but at fifty years. At the period from which all these works of art date the authority of the canonical Gospels was uncontested. They should be explained by the liberty which these works of art demanded, which it is not allowable to consider as documents capable of an absolutely rigorous interpretation.

[4] Concerning the opinions of Irenaeus about the Gospel canon, refer to Zahn, Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen Kanons.


indications have been found in Irenaeus which put us upon the track of the explanation sought for. In the first place, in the same passage where he gives his opinion as to the age of Jesus at death, Irenaeus says that He must have sanctified by His death all the periods of human life (Haer., xxii). This is a dogmatic observation which scarcely fits in with the authority of the Gospel traditions which he recognizes. In the second place, Irenaeus (ii. 22-5) relies on the authority of the fourth Gospel and the tradition of the presbyters who had known John—that is, upon Papias. It is possible to trace the exegetical process by which the idea of Jesus dying at the age of fifty years has been extracted from the fourth Gospel. In John viii. 57 the Jews say to Jesus, "Thou art not yet fifty years old." There is evidently here no indication as to the real age of Jesus at the time, but Irenaeus, and no doubt the presbyters before him, being desirous of representing Jesus as sanctifying the age at which it was supposed that a man attained the plentitude of his powers, have understood this passage to suggest that Jesus was nearly fifty years old.[1] One other text of the Gospel may have suggested or confirmed this interpretation. In the episode of the purification of the Temple the Jews asked Jesus to justify by a miracle the authority which He had claimed in expelling the traders. He replied: "Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in three days" (ii. 19), which remark, observes the evangelist, did not refer to the Temple of Jerusalem, but to the body of Jesus (ii. 21). The Jews retorted: "Forty-six years was this Temple in building, and Thou wilt rebuild it in three days!" (ii. 20). It only required to apply the same symbolism to this reply of the Jews as to the declaration of Jesus to arrive at the same idea that Jesus was forty-six years old at the time of the incident of the purification of the Temple.

There is, therefore, in the work of Irenaeus no tradition on behalf of which it is possible to criticize that of the Gospels. There are only speculations inspired by allegorical principles and dogmatic considerations. The opinion of Irenaeus and of those who followed him cannot be interpreted as the proof of the existence of doubts and hesitations concerning the current tradition. And it is deducing from very inconsistent premises

[1] Hippocrates, according to Philo, De opificio mundi, 105.


conclusions singularly unwarranted to suppose, with M. Salomon Reinach, that a tradition which represented Jesus as dying in the reign of Claudius—that is, after A.D. 41—could not originally have mentioned Pontius Pilate, who was disgraced in A.D. 36, for this presumes that the most ancient narrative of the Passion must have contained no mention of the name of the Roman Procurator. The point it is necessary to remember about traditions like those of Irenaeus is that during a long period the indifference was maintained which the first generation had shown to everything concerning Jesus which only possessed biographical interest.


The same conclusion follows also from the fact that during the generation after the death of Jesus interest was centred only in isolated souvenirs, without any conscious attempt to form them into a coherent group, in harmony with the real development of facts. It is this which is shown by the character of the setting of the Synoptic Gospels.

The Gospel of Mark is composed of an introduction and of four portions, of which the first may be subdivided into eight sections.

The introduction consists of three brief accounts of John the Baptist, the baptism, and the temptation of Jesus (i. 1-13). The first part (i. 14 to viii. 26) gives a picture of the Galilean ministry of Jesus and of His preaching of the Gospel to the multitudes. The return to Galilee, the calling of the first disciples, the journey to Capernaum, the itinerant preaching and the healing of the lepers, make up a first section which portrays the activity of Jesus as welcomed by the crowd (i. 14-45). Then comes a series of conflicts which take place between Jesus and the Pharisees, ending in a cabal between these and the Herodians who wish to destroy Him (Chap. iii). It is the second section which immediately after the opening success portrays the difficulties, ever increasing, until the final drama. The third section is a kind of interlude, Jesus not allowing Himself to be discouraged by the opposition He encounters, but continuing His ministry of healing whilst He prepares the future by the institution of the


apostolate (iii. 7-19). With the fourth section (iii. 20-35) the conflict becomes more acute. Even the kinsmen of Jesus accuse Him of being out of His senses, and the Pharisees declare that He is possessed by Beelzebub. The fifth section gives a specimen of the teaching of Jesus, consisting of three parables, accompanied by explanations and theoretical reflections. In this section the evangelist explains the failure of Jesus already announced in preceding sections. Being unwilling to admit that this was not intentional, he develops the theory of the hardening of men's hearts consciously provoked, Jesus using parables designed to conceal His real thought from those who were not initiates (iv. 1-34).

A sixth section (iv. 35 to vi. 6) shows Jesus quitting the Galilean territory to begin His action on pagan soil at Gerasa. He is not, to speak exactly, ill received, but the time for acting upon the non-Jews has not yet come. The episode of Gerasa must be looked on as prefigurative of the Christian mission. Having returned again to Galilee, Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood, then returns to Nazareth, where He is repulsed by His compatriots.

Just as after the conflicts narrated in the second section Jesus had prepared for the future by the institution of the apostolate, so after His rejection at Nazareth He sends forth the apostles on a mission. To this episode there is attached in a somewhat artificial way the narrative about the perplexity of Herod and retrospectively that of the death of John the Baptist (seventh section, vi. 6-30). The narratives which follow up to the close of the first part of the Gospel (eighth section, vi. 31 to viii. 26) show a very characteristic arrangement. The same episode (the multiplication, or rather the distribution, of loaves) is related twice under two forms sufficiently like one another to prevent any hesitation in recognizing in them two variants of the same theme, and it appears that the events which follow the second multiplication of loaves (the crossing of the lake, the discussion with the Jews, and the healing) correspond fairly closely with those accompanying the first. This doublet shows the importance which this part of the narrative had for tradition.

The distribution of loaves has been considered to be the anticipation of the Lord's supper, as a supreme attempt made


by Jesus to win over the people who had not been gained to His cause either by appeals or by healing.[1] The failure is manifested by the Jewish opposition, which raises after the first distribution the discussion concerning the pure and the impure, and after the second demands from Jesus a sign from heaven. Henceforward the fate of the public ministry of Jesus was sealed—failure was complete and irremediable. Jesus to some extent resigns Himself to the inevitable, and renounces all public teaching designed to win the people's support.

In the second part of the Gospel (viii. 27 to x. 52) it is solely to His disciples that Jesus addresses Himself.[2]

At the same time His teaching is about to assume a new character. It is no longer the Gospel of the Kingdom but that of the Messiah. Jesus reveals to His disciples the fate which awaits Him in Judea, and announces His resurrection to them, but they do not understand His teaching. After each of three prophecies of sufferings—which form, so to speak, the framework of this part of the Gospel (viii. 31, 32, ix. 30-2 and x. 32-4)—is placed a narrative in which the disciples' lack of intelligence is startlingly manifested. A peculiar importance as regards the arrangement of the Gospel of Mark belongs to the first passage of this second part, where the author narrates the confession of Peter near Caesarea Philippi (viii. 27-30). Starting from this passage, the notion of the Messiahship dominates the narrative and forms the central subject of the teaching given to the apostles.

The third part of the Gospel begins with the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and ends at the time when the Jews are preparing to form a plot against Him (xi. 1-13, 37). This portion contains an account of the discussions between Jesus and the Jews and the teaching given to the disciples. The narratives are arranged in well-marked progression. After Jesus, by His solemn entry into Jerusalem (xi. i-ii) and by the purification of the Temple, has, so to speak, taken up His position, there is

[1] Maurice Goguel, L'Eucharistie, p. 51.

[2] The few narratives in which other personages intervene have their centre of gravity in the special teachings that Jesus attaches to them for His disciples (for example in x. 17-31),or they are inserted in the place in which we read them because tradition located them in Judea (example, x. 46-52).


placed a series of discussions which accentuate the conflict and make it a definite thing. This is shown by the invectives against the Pharisees, which are the last words of Jesus pronounced in public (xii. 38-40). After this the evangelist narrates the teachings given by Jesus to His disciples touching final things (xiii. 1-37). This is a kind of testament which He bequeaths them. One single episode of this portion of the Gospel presents a character different from the others: it is that of the widow's mite (xii. 41-4), which the evangelist has placed here because the act, taking place in the Temple, could not be well put elsewhere.

The narratives of the Passion, which form the last portion of the Gospel (xiv. 1-16), are so intimately inter-related that it is unnecessary to show that they form one complete group. They are linked with each other in a necessary way, beginning with the plot of the Jews up to the arrival of the women at the sepulchre, which they find empty.[1]

The plan upon which the Gospel of Mark is arranged has a triple character: it is psychological, since it rests upon the idea of the development of the Jewish opposition and the disciples' lack of intelligence; it is logical and chronological, since it shows in the events the reaction after the welcome given to Jesus; it is geographical, since it divides the history of Jesus into three great periods: Galilean ministry, itinerant ministry, and Jersualem ministry.

It is on the plan adopted by Mark that the narratives of Matthew and Luke also rest, and nothing perhaps shows better than this fact the dependence of the first and third evangelists upon the second. Both, however, have been obliged to modify to a certain extent the arrangement adopted by Mark so as to enable them to introduce into their narratives the elements they wished to add to those given by him.

In the immense majority of cases the portions borrowed by Matthew from Mark are found in his work in the same order. As in Mark, the account is divided into two portions by the

[1] The Gospel of Mark gives no accounts of apparitions of the Resurrected One, its end having disappeared at an early date. Those which are read in the received text have been added afterwards by a man acquainted with the other Gospels. According to a statement made by the Armenian work of Edschmiadzin, this person was the presbyter Aristion.


episode of Caesarea Philippi. But in the first portion Matthew has not reproduced the somewhat elaborate composition which we find in Mark. This is not because he has represented the order of events differently, but the ordering of Mark's work was much too compact to permit the insertion of elements which Matthew desired to add.

The Gospel of Matthew opens by an introduction (i. 1 to iv. 11) which, in addition to what is given in the Gospel of Mark, contains the gospel of the infancy, but in a somewhat detailed way as regards John the Baptist and the temptation.

The account of the Galilean ministry (iv. 2 to xvi. 12) is divided into four sections. The first (iv. 2 to ix. 34) is formed, after a short preamble, by two pictures: the preaching by words (v. 1 to vii. 29) and the preaching by deeds (viii. 1 to ix. 34), which illustrate the two terms, "preaching and healing," employed in iv. 23 to characterize the activity of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount (v. 1 to vii. 29) has been inserted as a specimen of the teaching of Jesus at the place in Mark's Gospel where for the first time the teaching had been referred to[1] (Mark i. 21, 22). The picture of the activity of Jesus consists of a series of portions borrowed either from Mark or from other sources; it is arranged in such a way as to illustrate the reply of Jesus to the question of the Baptist: "The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised" (xi. 5). This picture is drawn with a certain objectivity in the sense that the evangelist does not relate the impression which the acts of Jesus produced.

It is in the second section (ix. 35 to x. 42) that the welcome given to Jesus is shown in relief. In the first place, by anticipation on the order followed by Mark, we have the sending forth of the disciples on a mission, and reproduced according to the Logia and not according to Mark, the discourse which accompanies their departure. It is specially the idea of the difficulties that the missionaries will encounter and the hostility which will assail them which is developed (ix. 35 to x. 42); then comes,

[1] The correspondence is made evident by the fact that the impression produced by the Sermon on the Mount is characterized by Matthew in exactly the same terms that Mark had employed in reference to the teaching in the Capernaum synagogue.


after a note about the itinerant preaching (xi. 1), the question of the messengers sent by John the Baptist to Jesus, followed by the testimony of Jesus to John, the phrase about the Kingdom of God suffering violence, and the parable of the children (xi. 2-19). These portions show the forerunner himself losing faith. The words concerning John the Baptist are immediately followed by the malediction pronounced upon the unbelieving Galilean towns, and, whether it be that the evangelist did not wish (xi. 20-4) to terminate this portion by a note exclusively negative, or whether he merely copied the arrangement of his source, there comes next the doxology upon the revelation made unto infants (xi. 25-7) and the call to the weary and heavy laden (xi. 28-30). In Chap. xii Matthew takes up again the thread of the narrative of Mark with the two accounts about the disputes concerning the Sabbath (xii. 1-14) and a general notice about the healings accomplished by Jesus and of the crowds who came to Him (xii. 15-21). Still following Mark, he relates next the accusation of possession by evil spirits and the reply of Jesus (xii. 22-50), but in a more developed form. Then comes the chapter of parables (xiii. 1-52), which, although in a manner less obvious than in Mark, has also the character of a theoretical reflection upon the failure of Jesus.[1] The rejection of Jesus at Nazareth brings us to the end of this section (xiii. 53-8). For the third section (perplexity of Herod and death of John the Baptist, xiv. 1-13) and for the fourth (the group of the multiplication of loaves, xiv. 13 to xvi. 12) the narrative of Matthew is exactly parallel to that of Mark.[2]

In the second part of the Gospel, extending from Peter's confession to the healing of the blind men at Jericho (xvi. 13 to xx. 34), Matthew follows very closely the narrative of Mark. In no detail has he any different order. He confines himself

[1] The parables given by Mark are completed by others which come from the Logia. The dependence of Matthew upon Mark is evidenced by the fact that the explanation of the parable of the tares, which has no equivalent in Mark, is put after the conclusion of the teaching in parables, and separated in a not very natural way from the parable itself (xiii. 24-30). In essentials it appears to correspond with the parable of the sower in Mark.

[2] Exception is made of the addition and suppression of some unimportant details.


to omitting two short passages (Mark ix. 38-41 and 49, 50) and to adding some others.[1]

The relationship of Matthew's narrative with that of Mark in the third part, which deals with the Jerusalem ministry, is the same as in the second. One single passage has not been introduced, namely that of the widow's mite (Mark xii. 41-4). On the other hand, Matthew has added some portions. In the account of the Passion and the Resurrection, which constitutes the fourth and last part of the Gospel (xxvi. 1 to xxviii. 7), there is neither omission nor transposition to be noted, but only the addition of certain elements of clearly secondary importance.

Finally, Matthew continues his narrative beyond the point at which (for us) Mark stops; he finishes his work by the narrative of the apparation in Galilee and of the mission given by Jesus to His disciples (xxviii. 8-20). It is thus only in the first part of his narrative that Matthew diverges sensibly from the arrangement adopted by Mark. This he does for two reasons—to incorporate in his narrative the substance of the Logia and to group in compact groups the similar elements furnished by either of the two sources at his disposal.

The introduction of new matter has not led in Luke's Gospel, as in that of Matthew, to a transformation or retouching of the primitive plan. The new matter is, generally speaking, intercalated in the structure of the second Gospel. Luke opens his work with a dedication to Theophilus, in which he explains the object he has in view (i. 1-4). Then comes the introduction (i. 5 to iv. 13), consisting of two elements, a gospel of the infancy differing from that of Matthew (i. 5 to ii. 52) and the narratives concerning John the Baptist, the baptism and temptation of Jesus, this last narrative being preceded by a genealogy (iii. i to iv. 13). The first part of the Gospel of Luke contains the account of the Galilean ministry of Jesus (iv. 14 to ix. 17), arranged somewhat differently from the account in the second Gospel. After a short reference to the itinerant preaching (iv. 14, 15), there comes the scene of the preaching of Jesus at Nazareth (iv. 16-30), which anticipates a story that Mark gives a little later. Luke

[1] Some are combined of narratives derived from Mark (xvi. 17-19. xvii. 20, xviii. 4) and others are inserted between the narratives borrowed from Mark (xvii. 24-7, viii. 10-35, xx- 1-16).


has here made a displacement, for the episode at Nazareth supposes continuous and organized activity of Jesus at Capernaum (iv. 23), as will be recorded in iv. 31. This displacement gives to the opening of the ministry of Jesus a dramatic character, and illustrates two dominating ideas, the first being that the Gospel was the accomplishment of prophecy; the second that it was not welcomed.

After the scene of Nazareth, Luke gives the narratives about Jesus at Capernaum (iv. 31-41), the flight of Jesus to a desert place (iv. 42-3), the itinerant preaching in Galilee (iv. 44)—told more briefly than in Mark, certain elements of his account being taken from elsewhere—and the healing of the lepers (v. 12-16).

These incidents follow in the same order as in Mark, but before the last of the series Luke inserts the episode of the miraculous draught of fishes (v. 1-11), which replaces the more simple narrative of the vocation of the disciples found in Mark. The picture of the early activity of Jesus is followed, as in Mark, by a second section, wherein a series of conflicts already announces the failure of the preaching of Jesus (v. 17 to vi. 11). The third section (apostleship and healing, vi. 12-19) again reproduces the arrangement of Mark. In what follows there is found, on the contrary, nothing which corresponds to the fourth section of Mark (accusation of madness and possession).[1] On the other hand, Luke inserts here two sections which are peculiar to him; the fourth consists of a discourse on the plain (vi. 20-49), which is the equivalent, although in a less well-developed form, of the Sermon on the Mount given by Matthew. The fifth section consists of a series of passages lacking in Mark, and of which a portion only is found, again in Matthew (Luke vii. 1 to viii. 3). These portions are fairly dissimilar, and it is difficult to see why they were inserted at this place. It may be supposed that Luke, who seems to make it a point to interrupt as rarely as possible the thread of Mark's narrative, has made use of what he had left out to place at the end of the discourses of Jesus a series of fresh narratives.

The sixth section of Luke (viii. 4-18) corresponds to the

[1] The episode of Beelzebub is found again in a more developed form, and does not seem to be from Mark. It is in a different context (xi. 14). The remark of Jesus about His real parents is given elsewhere (viii. 19-21).


section of parables in Mark, but with certain simplifications. In the seventh (viii. 19-56) and eighth sections (ix. 1-9) Luke only diverges from Mark upon secondary points. The ninth and last section of the first part shows, when compared with Mark's narrative, considerable simplification. It only contains the narrative of the return of the disciples and the first multiplication of loaves (ix. 10-17). In tne second part of the Gospel, which opens with the Messianic confession of Peter, Luke begins by following very closely Mark's narration as far as the episode of the miracles worked in the name of Jesus[1] (ix. 18-50). Then from ix. 50 as far as xviii. 14 he abandons the narrative of Mark in order to record a whole series of episodes peculiar to himself, and which constitute a third part of his Gospel. Jesus appears in this to be constantly on the road; and although the geographical development is not distinctly marked, He appears to be going towards Jerusalem. Analysis shows that this account (which is frequently called, by the way by no means too correctly, the narrative of the journey or ministry in Perea) is not homogeneous.[2] Whether the subject under consideration be the questioners of Jesus, the circumstances supposed attending each episode, or the transitions between them, one becomes convinced that the successive narrations forming this part of the Gospel have no real unity, but that they have been borrowed from various sources and grouped together artificially. It appears as though Luke had interrupted the narrative of Mark at a point chosen in an arbitrary manner in order to insert a series of passages which he did not wish to lose, but which he did not know where to place. In xviii. 15 he resumes the thread of Mark's narrative exactly at the point where he had left it, and the fourth part of his narrative (xviii. 15 to xix. 27) corresponds almost exactly with Mark to the end of the second part of the latter.[3] The account of the Jerusalem ministry, which forms the fifth part of the Gospel (xx. 28 to xxi. 38) is also fairly similar to

[1] One single passage of Mark is not reproduced by Luke. It is the conversation of Jesus with His disciples after descending the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark ix. 9-13). This passage may have been omitted because it discussed a question of Jewish dogma, which had no interest for readers of Luke.

[2] See on this point Maurice Goguel, Introd. au N.T., I, pp. 464-81.

[3] Omission of Mark (x. 35-45); addition of Luke (xix. 1-27).


that of Mark. Luke omits the curse upon the fig-tree, and gives no division into days, stating only at the end of his narrative that Jesus taught during the daytime in the Temple and at night he retired to the Mount of Olives.[1]

The sixth part, consisting of the account of the Passion and Resurrection (xxii. 1 to xxiv. 53), is in its general arrangement sufficiently close to the corresponding part of Mark's narration, but from many points of view it presents a rather special physiognomy owing to the disposition or the form of certain of the more important narratives of which it consists. There is here presented a problem peculiar to the point of view of the sources which Luke has followed in his narrative of the Passion. The account of the Resurrection consists, after the discovery of the empty tomb, of the apparitions to the two disciples upon the road to Emmaus and to the apostles assembled at Jerusalem. This last account is followed by that of the Ascension (xxiv. 1-53). It should be noted that Luke knows only of Judaic apparitions. It follows from the preceding analysis that the plan of Luke's work has no independent value of its own. It is a mere enlargement of that of Mark.

The fact that neither Matthew nor Luke have attempted to arrange their narrative of the life of Jesus otherwise than Mark had done, and that they confined themselves to retouching the arrangement adopted by their predecessor, where it was necessary to permit the introduction of new matter, is in itself significative. It proves that Matthew and Luke, who had at their disposal sources of information which Mark had not, found nothing therein which supplied them with information concerning the arrangement and the order of the facts. This premier observation is already unfavourable to the hypothesis according to which the development of Mark's narrative corresponded to the real course of events.

The problem, however, can only be solved by a direct examination of Mark's plan. We shall confine ourselves here to some remarks which do not pretend to exhaust the problem of the life of Jesus, but which should at least serve to explain the character of Mark's plan. The first remark will bear on the notion of the

[1] Luke omits Mark xii. 28-34, of which he gives an equivalent in x. 25-8. He adds xix. 39-44.


Messianic secret. The episode of Caesarea Philippi (viii. 27-30), in which Peter recognizes Jesus as the Christ, and the story of the Transfiguration (ix. 2-8), which serves as celestial confirmation for him, form the pivot around which is articulated the entire construction of the Gospel. From this time onward the disciples, being prepared to receive this quasi-esoteric teaching, Jesus attempts to make them understand the necessity of the sufferings and death of the Messiah. Does this construction of Mark answer to the real development of the facts? There is reason to doubt it. There are found in the first part of the Gospel passages which clearly present Jesus, not, doubtless, as the Messiah in the traditional sense, but at least as One sent from God, as the Son of man—that is, someone charged by God to accomplish the work of redemption. We shall not, to establish this, refer to the account of the baptism (i. 9-11), where there is an express Messianic declaration, since it seems that originally it was related as a vision of Jesus and not a revelation accorded to the people or to the disciples.[1]

But it must be asked if episodes such as the calling of the disciples (i. 16-20), the institution of the apostleship (iii. 13-19) and the sending forth of the disciples on mission (vi. 6-13) do not assume that the narrator had the idea that He who acted with such authority must, to be thus obeyed, have revealed who He was to those whom He chose and sent forth? Certain narratives, such as the healing of the paralytic (ii. 1-12), with the declaration that the Son of man has the power on earth to forgive sins (ii. 10), would have no sense if Jesus had presented Himself only as a doctor or even as a prophet. The healings of the demoniacs, and the discussion about Beelzebub connected with them, are in this connection particularly characteristic. The expulsions of demons are not, in the evangelist's eyes (and they were not for Jesus) simple acts of power and mercy—they were acts essentially Messianic. They assume, in fact, a victory gained over Satan, the prince of demons—in other words, the realization in power of the very work which was expected from the Messiah, or at least an anticipation of this victory. This is

[1] It may nevertheless be asked if Mark has perfectly preserved the primitive character of the narrative and if he does not represent the people as at least the witnesses of the vision of Jesus.


shown by the reply of Jesus when the Pharisees accuse him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Mark iii. 22). Jesus replies first by reducing the argument to an absurdity. If Satan makes war upon himself, he will not be able to stand; his kingdom will come to an end (iii. 23-6). Then He gives the explanation of these expulsions, and this He does in the parable of the strong man: "No one can enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods except he will first bind the strong man" (iii. 27). The strong man here is Satan, the prince of demons. Jesus is unable to "spoil his goods"—that is, snatch from him those whom he holds dominion over—if He has not first of all conquered him. This victory gained over demons is essentially a Messianic act, and the assertion of Jesus has for the evangelist the quality of a Messianic declaration. This is shown by the text of Luke, which adds this declaration: "But if I, with the finger of God, cast out devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you" (Luke xi. 20). One other fact proves that the Messianic proclamation of Mark viii. 27 could not possess the importance (if the data of Mark are adhered to) which the evangelist himself attributes to it, and marks the appearance in the Gospel tradition of a new idea, and this is the recognition of Jesus as the Son of God by the demoniacs.[1] "The unclean spirits," Mark writes, "when they perceived Him, fell at His feet and cried, Thou art the Son of God."[2] Doubtless Mark adds that Jesus commanded them to hold their peace (iii. 12 and v. 7), but it is impossible that these declarations which the evangelist represents as frequently occurring could have passed unperceived by the disciples, and that when hearing them they should not have understood or suspected that Jesus was the Messiah. Thus by the testimony of Mark himself the episode of Caesarea Philippi had not in reality the importance which the evangelist attributes to it. It is the pivot upon which the narrative is articulated, but not that of the Gospel history itself.

In taking up another point of view, the same conclusion is reached. "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem," said Jesus to His

[1] For the evangelist demons are supernatural beings, who see and understand things which escape the knowledge of mankind.

[2] Unclean spirits—that is, those possessed.


disciples, "and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles" (x. 33). It is in the interest of dogma that Jesus is shown leaving Galilee. "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." The arrival of Jesus at Jerusalem is presented by Mark as a march to execution. It is the Messianic proclamation of Peter which sets in motion the drama. After Jesus has been rejected by the Galilean people, He reveals Himself to His disciples as the Messiah, and goes up to Jerusalem to die there, in accordance with the plan of redemption. Did Jesus really of His own free initiative (as Mark indicates) go up to Jerusalem, and go in order to die there? His departure from Galilee appears to have had other causes than those mentioned by Mark. At the close of the series of conflicts we read: "And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him" (iii. 6). In Mark this statement is isolated; it could not have been so in the primitive tradition from which he borrowed this fact. No mention could have been made of a plot formed against Jesus without having stated what resulted from it. The primitive tradition has not been preserved in its integrity because a dogmatic construction has been substituted for the account of the real development of the story of Jesus. Of this primitive tradition another fragment is perhaps preserved, in a form, by the way, modified. This is in the episode concerning Herod and his perplexity about Jesus (Mark vi. 14-16). In the way in which we read it, this account is outside the work; it plays no part in the development of facts. It is the debris of a tradition in which Herod had to play an active part in the story of Jesus. Wellhausen has ingeniously conjectured that in the place where we read in Luke ix. 9, "Herod sought to see Him," there was primitively the phrase, "Herod sought to put Him to death." Besides the passage in Mark (iii. 6), the warning given in viii. 15 ("Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod") is a trace of this hostility.

There is found in a passage peculiar to the Gospel of Luke an extremely valuable indication with the same significance. At


the close of Jesus' stay in Galilee certain Pharisees came and said to Him: "Get Thee out, and depart hence, for Herod will kill Thee" (Luke xiii. 31). This tradition must be historical, for it contradicts the general conception of the evangelists, which always represents the Pharisees as resolutely hostile to Jesus. Otherwise how can it be supposed that a human motive should have been subsequently substituted for a dogmatic motive for the departure of Jesus for Jerusalem?[1]

Jesus did not come to Jerusalem only to die there. His stay appears to have had a longer duration than the Synoptics indicate, otherwise the passage such as that given by Matthew (xxiii. 37) and Luke (xiii. 34), preserved by them from the Logia, would not be comprehensible: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."[2]

It is not easy to understand also how within the few days of which the Synoptics speak, the drama of the Passion would have had the time to begin and develop. So far was Jesus from coming to Jerusalem to die there that He carefully organized His entry into the Holy City to impress the spectators, and by His action and His public teaching He did His best to rally the crowd to His cause. Doubtless He must have perceived how dangerous was the part which He played. If He failed, His death was certain, for His enemies would not disarm. He did not retreat whilst there was yet time, but He accepted in advance the sacrifice which might be demanded from Him.[3]

[1] This is so true that in the reply of Jesus Luke has added a phrase (xiii. 32, 33) which explains the departure of Jesus for Jerusalem by the necessity that the Messiah must not die anywhere other than in the Holy City. He has thus in his text a doublet which is not natural. There is, perhaps, also a souvenir of Herod's hostility against Jesus in the non-historical account of Luke xxiii. 6-16.

[2] John presents Jesus as coming to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles—that is, the beginning of October. We have attempted to show that the Johannine narrative rests here on a tradition of great value (Introd. au N.T., ii, p. 411).

[3] By attaching to it a redeeming value, not in virtue of a dogmatic theory, but in the sentiment that if God allowed Him to perish it could only be because His death was necessary to the accomplishment of His work.


Nevertheless, so little was His death a dogmatic necessity for Jesus that in the precaution He took of quitting Jerusalem every evening, He attempted to escape from His enemies and perhaps had it not been for the treachery of Judas He would have succeeded. The Gethsemane episode (Mark xiv. 32-42) is in this respect very characteristic. At the last moment, when Jesus sees the circle of His enemies closing in upon Him, He is appalled. The scene in its essential details is certainly historic; it is too much in contradiction with the idea of the Christ accepting with serenity, almost with impassivity, the necessity of His sufferings[1] to warrant the belief that it was created by tradition.

At the time of the composition of the oldest of our Gospels a dogmatic system had already been substituted for the historic treatment of events, and this had happened under conditions such that those who compiled the Gospels found only fragmentary traditions before them. Nevertheless, it is seen that the story of Jesus had a quite different character at its origin. If, as the mythologists say, the Gospel tradition was only the projection upon the plane of history of a myth or of an ideal drama of redemption, the Gospel history would be homogeneous. It would have been instantly manipulated according to dogmatic principles; it would not be possible to find in it, as is the case in our actually existing Gospels, this lack of adaptation which arises from the fact that the tradition was inadequate or difficult to fit into the frame into which it was desired to force it. The character of Mark's narration is only explicable if matter and frame have two different origins. The latter has been elaborated by dogmatic reflection; the elements of the narrative[2] have not been created as a function of this frame, but borrowed from tradition to fill it.


To confirm our conclusions it remains for us to examine various theories by which it has sometimes been desired

[1] Such as is found, for instance, in the triple prophecy of suffering and death.

[2] In their totality, of course, and without prejudicing the solution of the critical problem which each one presents.


to explain in whole or in part the origin of the Gospel narratives.[1]

One observation concerning method must be laid down first of all. The Gospel history is not a homogeneous block which suddenly appeared in the form we are familiar with. The observations which authorize us to establish the co-existence of three parallel records prove that the tradition has evolved, and that indeed from the period which preceded the compiling of Mark's Gospel, doubtless since the primitive times of the life of the Church. Concerning this evolution, we can partly recognize and partly conjecture the causes, but it is illegitimate to think that the factors which determined the evolution of the Gospel tradition, its transformations and adaptations, were the same which gave birth to it. Transformation and creation are two very different things, and those factors which explain the first do not suffice to explain the second. This is easily perceived in examining some of the causes which have influenced the evolution of the tradition and by which certain persons have sometimes tried to explain its birth.

1. Folk-lore.

In the Gospels there are elements analogous to certain themes developed in the folk-lore of different races[2] which must have the same origin, but one can only explain by this fact certain details of secondary importance having no organic relationships with the essentials of the narratives, and which most frequently are only met with in the youngest forms of the tradition. Conclusions which hold good for these details cannot properly be extended to the whole body of Gospel literature. Critics have long since observed that the darkness which covered the whole earth at the moment of the death of Jesus (Mark xv. 33; Luke xxiii. 44; Matt, xxvii. 45), the earthquakes and the resurrections spoken of by Matthew (xxvii. 52, 53), are occurrences which are met with outside the Gospels, in the most widely different circumstances[3]; but it would be no more legitimate to conclude from this fact that the death of Jesus is a myth than it would be

[1] We do not revert here to the function of the prophetic exegesis which was dealt with in the preceding chapter.

[3] P. Saintyves, Essais de folk-lore biblique, Paris, 192.

[3] Id., ib.


to presume that Julius Caesar had never really existed because numerous writers have related that his death was accompanied by signs not less extraordinary.[1] There are among various races legends analogous to the Gospel narratives of the walking upon the waters (Mark vi. 45-52; Matt. xiv. 22-3), or of the multiplication of loaves (Mark vi. 31-43; Matt. xiv. 13-21; Luke ix. 10-17; John vi. 1-13), and the parallels established by M. Saintyves are as interesting as they are instructive. Their relations with the Gospel episode are, however, less direct than those presented by certain Old Testament texts, and, above all, they only bear upon certain subordinate details. In the narratives of the multiplication of loaves the miracle is not the essential thing. The entire interest is concentrated on the meal of Jesus and His disciples, in which the crowd took part. As for the episode of the walking on the waters, nothing proves that it is (at any rate in the form in which we have it) a primary element of the tradition. Doubtless Mark and Matthew in relating it considered they were narrating a miracle. The same may be said of John. But when this last account (especially) is read, there remains an impression (which might at first have seemed to be extraordinary) that Jesus, who had made the journey on foot, had reached the Capernaum shore of the lake before the disciples, who had crossed it in the boat. It is possible to conceive a quite natural explanation of this fact. The mythical and supernatural element appears to have intervened, not at the origin of the tradition, but in the course of its literary development.[2] What is there surprising in the fact that the editors of the Gospels, who did not consider Jesus an ordinary man, should have attributed a supernatural power to Him over the elements? The presence in the Gospel narratives of certain themes borrowed from myth or folk-lore is evidence of the already complex degree of evolution shown in the tradition as we have it, but it does not prove that the entire tradition had from its beginnings an exclusively mythical character.

[1] Such as Plutarch (Caesar), Virgil (Georgics I), Ovid (Metamorphoses).

[2] What is here said concerning the walking on the waters may be repeated regarding the account of the stilling of the tempest, which appears to be only a variant of it (see Mark iv. 35-41; Matt. viii. 23-7; Luke viii. 22).


2. Inspiration and Visions.

M. Couchoud considers that one of the principal sources of the Gospel history is inspiration, and that in a double sense. In the first place the oracles of inspired persons, considered as direct communications from Christ Himself, have been attributed to Jesus in a so-called historical ministry; then certain acts, particularly certain cures, performed by the Christians and explained by the power of the Christ who guided them, came to be considered as having been accomplished by Jesus Himself. Thus the cures wrought by Peter in the name of Christ, the teaching imparted by Him, the words pronounced in ecstasy by Stephen under the influence of the spiritual Christ, came to be considered as the acts and speeches of a Jesus whose biography was thus constituted by a transference from the history of the early Christians.

The theory is ingenious; it may appear seductive, for many of the teachings of Jesus are portrayed as related, not to his time, but to the situation existing in the early Church when the Gospels were compiled. The fourth Gospel commits an evident anachronism in speaking of exclusion from the synagogue as a penalty with which those who in the lifetime of Jesus recognized His Messiahship were threatened (ix. 22 and xii. 42), and the anachronism is none the less evident in the Synoptics, where Jesus is reputed to have spoken of the appearance of His disciples "before governors and kings"[1] (Matt. x. 18; Mark xiii. 9; Luke xxi. 12). There has been no creation here, but merely the adaptation of the tradition to the needs of those for whom the Gospels were written. It is not surprising that the authors of popular books have not carefully distinguished between the teaching of Jesus and its application.

We have shown, in the case of the apostle Paul (Chap. V), that in the primitive Church a very clear distinction was drawn between the word of the Lord and the revelations of inspired persons. In these conditions it is not conceivable that the two things could have been confounded. There is no reason to suppose that the distinction established in the primitive period, which was the greatest flowering time of spiritual gifts, became

[1] The term used by the Gospels may also be translated by "emperors."


less clear later on, at a time when the intensity of the spiritual life became less vigorous. It is not possible to explain the origin of the Gospel narratives by visions, as M. Couchoud would like to do. The phrase, "For I have received of the Lord," which Paul uses in 1 Cor. xi. 23, has not the meaning which he attributes to it, as we have seen, but it implies the existence and utilization of an earlier tradition.

It is true that at the beginning of the narrative a vision is found—that accompanying the baptism of Jesus—but it is expressly presented by Mark (i. 9-11) as a vision of Jesus; and from the fact that Jesus, like Paul, might have had visions,[1] it by no means follows that He was never an historical personage.

One other vision, the Transfiguration (Mark ix. 2-8), plays a part in the second portion of the evangelist, but this in any case is only a subordinate one, the Transfiguration being only the celestial confirmation of Peter's confession. This it is which is the true pivot of the Gospel history, since it is immediately after Peter has declared to Jesus, "Thou art the Christ," that the story takes a new orientation with the first announcement of the sufferings and death of the Messiah. The Transfiguration, in fact, is ill-placed in the story of Jesus. It must have been originally an account of the apparition of the Risen One, which has not been preserved in its primitive form because it implied a conception of the Messiahship which the faith of the Church had outgrown.[2]

3. The Transference of Material borrowed from the Apostolic History.

It is conceivable that the tradition of the words and sayings of Jesus may have been enriched by aphorisms or declarations which

[1] Visions, however, occupy in the life of Jesus only a very small place. Outside of the account of the Baptism and Transfiguration, where, in so far as one can judge of the first meaning of the narrative, it is a question of a vision of the disciples and not of Jesus, we only note one. It is that referred to in the phrase, "I saw Satan falling from heaven as lightning" (Luke x. 18), and here again it must be asked if this is anything more than a figurative expression.

[2] See our study, Notes d'histoire évangelique, ii (Esquisse d'une interpretation du récit de la transfiguration). Revue d'hist. des Religions, lxxxi, 1920, pp. 145 seq.


were not originally attributed to Him,[1] but we are unable to discover with certainty any fact of this kind in the Gospel tradition.[2] It would, moreover, only be a question of agglomeration and would presuppose the existence of the Gospel tradition.

It is true that the case of the two sentences spoken by Stephen at the moment of martyrdom has been pointed out: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" and "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts vii. 60). They have an evident affinity with those which Luke attributes to the dying Jesus: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (xxiii. 34), and "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (xxiii. 46). Certain writers have believed it possible to admit that between the two groups of sentences there is a relation of dependence, the book of Acts being the original member. It is true that M. Loisy leans, along with certain other critics, to the idea that this portion of the Acts is prior to the evangelists' account; but even if this were proved beyond all question, it would be inadmissible to draw conclusions of a too sweeping and too rigorous character, since these two sayings of Jesus (the first of which is not to be found in the primitive text of Luke) are in any case subordinate elements foreign to the most ancient tradition of the Passion. The dependence of Luke upon the Acts is, besides, not absolutely certain. The Acts were written after the third Gospel by the same author or the same editor. In telling the story of Stephen's martyrdom he could, even if he knew and used a more ancient tradition, have introduced details which recalled the Passion of Jesus, thus obeying a motive which has inspired the attitude of martyrs and confessors and has had a powerful influence on the whole literature of hagiology.

If from words we pass to narratives, the theory of the transference to the life of Jesus of that which originally belonged to the apostolic history is not more plausible. The fact relied

[1] It is thus, for instance, that Acts (i. 15 and xi. 6) put into the lips of Jesus the announcement of the baptism by the Spirit which the Synoptics all give as a sentence of John the Baptist.

[2] The Gospels attribute both to John the Baptist and to Jesus the speech about the tree and its fruits, but it is there doubtless an image which must be older than John the Baptist. It is also possible that Jesus had adopted a theme of the teaching of John the Baptist.


upon here is the analogy (indeed sufficiently striking) which apparently exists between a series of narratives relating to Peter and a series of miracles attributed to Jesus.

There are three passages specially which it is necessary to consider in this connection:

1. That in the Acts (v. 15, 16) referring to the sick brought from all parts to Peter in order that he might cure them by his shadow passing over them. This passage presents certain analogies with Mark vi. 53, 56, in which it is related how, when Jesus returned to Gennesareth after the first multiplication of loaves, they brought to Him from the surrounding country all the sick to the places where He passed, and how those who only succeeded in touching the hem of His garment were made whole. The analogy between the two accounts should not lead us to ignore and neglect the differences between them. The episode in the story of Jesus possesses an organic importance which it has not in that of Peter. It is found in the Gospel at a time when Jesus was continually on the road. On the contrary, Peter was at Jerusalem at the time referred to in the passage in the Acts. The extraordinary concourse of the sick and their eagerness are not justified as in the case of the Gospel narrative; there is, therefore, a characteristic accentuation of the miraculous element in it. The same conclusion is forced on us if we note that the cures of Jesus took place by actual contact, while those of Peter required only the mere passage of his shadow.

2. At Lydda Peter cured the impotent man, Aeneas, who for eight years had lain upon a pallet (Acts ix. 32-5). This has been compared with the healing of the paralytic in Mark ii. 1-12. But two details essential in Mark's narrative are lacking in the Acts. First of all the proof of extraordinary faith given by the sick man and his bearers, who, in order to get at Jesus, remove a part of the roof of the house. Then follows the discussion upon the forgiveness of sins. The account in Acts is thus a simplification of that in the Gospel; originality cannot be on its side.

3. At Joppa a woman named Tabitha (in Greek, Dorcas, which means Gazelle), who did much good and was extremely charitable, had just died. Her body was laid in an upper room,


and messengers were sent to seek Peter at Lydda. The latter having been conducted to the place where the corpse was lying, sent everyone out of the room, and after offering a prayer, turned towards the corpse and said: "Tabitha, arise!" The woman then opened her eyes and sat up. Peter took her by the hand and assisted her to rise. Calling the saints and the widows, he presented her to them alive (Acts ix. 36-43). This narration has striking analogies with the account of the raising of the daughter of Jairus in Mark. When Jesus, after His excursion to Gerasa, returned to the western shore of the lake, a ruler of the synagogue named Jairus came to Him, beseeching Him to come and lay His hands upon His daughter, then at the point of death. Whilst Jesus is on His way, news is brought to Jairus that the child is dead. Jesus replied to Jairus: "Be not afraid, only believe." Arrived at the house, He found a crowd of people weeping and lamenting. He sent them all away, only keeping with Him the father and the mother of the child and the three disciples He had brought with Him. He entered into the chamber of the dead, and taking the body by the hand pronounces the words in Aramaic, "Talitha Kumi," which, being interpreted, is: "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise." The child, who was twelve years old, arose. Jesus restores her to her parents, and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

It is improbable that these two narratives—at least in the form in which we are familiar with them—are quite independent of each other. But on which side is the priority? In the Gospel this story is combined very closely with that of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (Mark v. 25, etc.), whilst in the Acts it is isolated. This already is favourable to the priority of the Gospel narrative. On the other hand, the story of the resurrection of Tabitha discloses the influence of two Old Testament narratives—that of the resurrection of the Sarepta widow's son by Elijah (1 Kings. xvii) and that of the raising of the child of the Shunamite woman by Elisha (2 Kings iv. 33). It is therefore a more developed account than Mark's, where these influences are not revealed. The account in the Acts is also more marvellous, for it is a matter of the resurrection of a person dead already several days, whilst in the Gospel the child has just died, and certain details lead one to think that originally it was a


matter of healing and not of resurrection. The final touch in Mark's account belongs to a very primitive conception representing Jesus as exercising the medical activity of a Rabbi. Between the name "Tabitha"[1] and the words "Talitha Kumi" the analogy is quite superficial.[2] If it were a real analogy, taken alone it would not enable us to say which is the original. Here, again, the account in the Acts appears subordinate to that of the Gospel, which some have wished to derive from the former.

The two accounts of the cure of the impotent man and the raising of Dorcas are connected in the Acts. Those of the Gospels to which they have been compared belong to two different cycles. And finally, the narratives concerning Peter in the book of Acts are among the least solid and the most recent portions of it. They have, in particular, a very close relationship with the story of Cornelius (Acts x. 1 to xi. 18), designed to attribute to Peter and not to Paul and the Church at Antioch the initiative of the preaching of the Gospel to the pagans—a narrative whose misleading character is obvious, and admitted unanimously as such by the critics.

4. The Liturgy.

There remains to examine one last factor through whose action it has been believed the formation of the Gospels could be explained. This is the liturgical factor.

M. Loisy thinks that because of their style a prophetico-liturgical character must be attributed to the Gospels, and he has pointed out that this fact would not be without very serious consequences. Discussions about the historical character of the Gospels would, in his opinion, lose a great part of their import if "these were handbooks relating to the cult of the Lord Christ, if the oracles of the Lord Jesus had been worded by the prophets of the first Christian age, if the account of the Passion was related to the ritual or rituals of the Christian Passover in early times."[3] The idea that the Gospels are only

[1] Which is certified as a woman's name. See Preuschen, Die Apostelgeschichte, Tübingen, 1912.

[2] It would completely disappear even if, with Wellhausen and Klostermann, the reading "Rabitha Kumi" were admitted on the authority of certain Western witnesses (Das Evangelium Marci).

[3] Loisy, Revue critique, 1923, p. 402.


liturgical handbooks cannot in any case be considered as established. In order to justify it, M. Loisy invokes the rhythm, but up to the present, notwithstanding various deliberate attempts (often ingenious), it has been impossible to discover the law of this rhythm. It is hardly to be disputed that there are in the New Testament, in the Epistles of Paul as well as in the Gospel, passages where a certain periodicity is perceptible, and which may be considered as rhythmic. But so long as no one succeeds in defining with precision what constitutes a line and a strophe, it will be impossible to consider the Gospels in their entirety—and with even more reason the whole New Testament—as written in rhythmic form more or less resembling the Sibylline books. The rhythm discoverable in the Gospels most frequently does not surpass the characteristic forms of Oriental thought, with its predilection for parallelism and antithesis, for opposition, enumeration and gradation, which follow from the dialectical process which it habitually employs. There is nothing which justifies us in calling this a liturgical style properly so called.

There is, besides, a very grave objection to the suggestion that the Gospels were compiled for public worship; it is that there is no trace in first-century Christianity of a liturgical use of the Gospels.[1]

The remark in Mark xiii. 14 and in Matt. xxiv. 15, "Let him that readeth understand," may refer to a public reading,[2] but it is found in the Synoptic Apocalypse, which seems originally to have had an independent existence.[3] The sole texts we

[1] Neither is there any trace of a liturgical reading of the Epistles.

[2] It is not certain that this note is primitive. Luke (xxi. 20) has nothing equivalent to it. His text, nevertheless, in spite of the substitution of "Jerusalem besieged" for "abomination of desolation," is closely related to that of Mark and Matthew. The form of the phrase, "and when ye shall see . . . then let them that are in Judea flee to the mountains," is the same. We have tried elsewhere to show that Luke's text is the oldest, and that it has been corrected in Matthew and Mark to dissociate the siege of Jerusalem from the events of the end. If this is so, the note may be considered as a hint to the reader, designed to emphasize the import of the new indication. (See Goguel, Introd. au N.T., i, pp. 301 seq.)

[3] The Apocalypses seem to have been, from the beginning, designed for public reading, as is shown by the remark in Apoc. i. 3: "Happy is he who reads and happy are those who harken to the works of prophecy and who keep what is there written."


possess concerning the Christian cult of the first century, that of Chaps. xii and xiv of the first Epistle to the Corinthians and that of the Didachè,[1] contain no allusion to the reading of the Holy Scriptures at public worship, not even the reading of the Old Testament.[2] The first certification of a cultural reading of the Gospels is met with in Justin Martyr (Apol., i, 67). The reading of the Gospels was certainly not in his time a novelty. There is, however, nothing to authorize us to date this custom back to the first century. In the present state of research concerning the formation of the New Testament canon it seems to be established that public reading was one of the causes, not the consequence, of their canonization. That an organic relation exists between the Gospel narratives and the eucharistic ritual is evident, and in particular it is not doubtful that the divergence between the three Synoptic accounts on one side and the Johannine account on the other, respecting the date of the death of Jesus, corresponds to a difference between the rituals of the Roman Church and those of Asia, but this relation is a complex one. If the rites influenced the narratives, these latter, especially at the period of origin, must also have influenced the rites. A perfectly liturgical explanation of the Gospel narratives which is related to the rites would only be possible if the Christian rites could be entirely reduced to those of an earlier age.

Now this is a thesis which cannot be considered as established, especially in the case of the Eucharist. However important the contacts may be, especially in subordinate forms, which it shows with rites foreign to Christianity, there is in it something original which does not owe its existence to borrowing. As confirmation of this statement, the rite of baptism (which in itself seems to be the transformation and adaptation of a Jewish rite) is not connected by Christian tradition with an episode of the life of Jesus. (See L'Eucharistie des origines à Justin Martyr, Goguel.)

The interpretation of the Gospel history as a liturgy is not

[1] It may even be said that the first portion of the Didachè, which is a summary of the moral teaching of the Gospels for the use of catechumens, would not be comprehensible if the Gospels had been at the time this book was composed the object of a regular reading.

[2] There is no allusion made, either, in what Paul says of the Christian cult.


to be set aside only because of its hypothetical character and because it is the explanation of something partly obscure by something totally unknown, but still more because it clashes with this decisive objection, namely that the influence of the cult on the tradition could only be exercised at a time when the tradition was already established—at least in its essential details.[1]

[1] With even greater reason may we set aside without detailed discussion the liturgical explanations of certain narratives proposed by M. Saintyves. For example, that of the multiplication of loaves "by a mystery cult analogous to that of Dionysius," which he supposes "existed in Judaism, or at any rate among the Syrians" (Essais); or, again, that of the walking on the waters "by a ceremony connected with a seasonal and initiation ritual which was both Jewish and Christian—the ritual of the Passover."

If these are gratuitous hypotheses, what is to be thought of the explanation of the rending of the (Temple) veil by a rite thus described: "When the annual victim which the early Christians sacrificed died, or was on the point of death, in order to show clearly that this victim was fulfilling the part of the Eternal High Priest, perhaps the sanctuary veil was rent in pieces, and the portions were dispersed"? (Essais, p. 424). It is unnecessary to add that not one text—and for good reason—is cited to prove the existence of this rite.

Go to the Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History by Maurice Goguel table of contents.