The problem in regard to St. Mark and the triple synopsis is considerably simpler. Here the difficulty arises from the necessity of assuming a distinction between our present second Gospel and the original document on which that Gospel is based. I have already touched upon this point. The synoptical analysis seems to conduct us to a ground document greatly resembling our present St. Mark, which cannot however be quite identical with it, as the Canonical Gospel is found to contain secondary features. But apart from the fact that these secondary features are so comparatively few that it is difficult to realise the existence of a work in which they, and they only, should be absent, there is this further obstacle to the identification even of the ground document with the Mark of Papias, that even in that original shape the Gospel still presented the normal type of the Synoptic order, though ‘order’ is precisely the characteristic that Papias says was, in this Gospel, wanting.
Everywhere we meet with difficulties and complexities. The testimony of Papias remains an enigma that can only be solved—if ever it is solved—by close and detailed investigations. I am bound in candour to say that, so far as I can see myself at present, I am inclined to agree with the author of ’Supernatural Religion’ against his critics [Endnote 159:1], that the works to which Papias alludes cannot be our present Gospels in their present form.
What amount of significance this may have for the enquiry before us is a further question. Papias is repeating what he had heard from the Presbyter John, which would seem to take us up to the very fountainhead of evangelical composition. But such a statement does not preclude the possibility of subsequent changes in the documents to which it refers. The difficulties and restrictions of local communication must have made it hard for an individual to trace all the phases of literary activity in a society so widely spread as the Christian, even if it had come within the purpose of the writer or his informant to state the whole, and not merely the essential part, of what he knew.
THE CLEMENTINE HOMILIES.
It is unfortunate that there are not sufficient materials for determining the date of the Clementine Homilies. Once given the date and a conclusion of considerable certainty could be drawn from them; but the date is uncertain, and with it the extent to which they can be used as evidence either on one side or on the other.