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The Teaching of Jesus eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 161 pages of information about The Teaching of Jesus.
itself.  After all that the young science of Biblical Theology has done to reveal the manifold variety of New Testament doctrine, the book still remains a unity; and the attempt to play off one part of it against another—­the Gospels against the Epistles, or the Epistles against the Gospels—­is to be sternly resented and resisted.  To St. Paul himself any such rivalry would have been impossible, and, indeed, unthinkable.  There was no claim which he made with more passionate vehemence than that the message which he delivered was not his, but Christ’s.  “As touching the gospel which was preached by me,” he says, “neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.”  The Spirit who spoke through him and his brother apostles was not an alien spirit, but the Spirit of Christ, given according to the promise of Christ, to make known the things of Christ; so that there is a very true sense in which their words may be called “the final testimony of Jesus to Himself.”  “We have the mind of Christ,” Paul said, and both in the Epistles and the Gospels we may seek and find the teaching of Jesus.[2]

It is, however, with the teaching of Jesus as it is recorded in the Gospels that, in these chapters, we are mainly concerned.  We come, therefore to our second question:  Can we trust the Four Gospels?  And this question must be answered in even fewer words than were given to the last.  As to the external evidence, let us hear the judgment of the great German scholar, Harnack.  Harnack is a critic who is ready to give to the winds with both hands many things which are dear to us as life itself; yet this is how he writes in one of his most recent works:  “Sixty years ago David Friedrich Strauss thought that he had almost entirely destroyed the historical credibility, not only of the fourth, but also of the first three Gospels as well.  The historical criticism of two generations has succeeded in restoring that credibility in its main outlines."[3] When, from the external, we turn to the internal evidence, we are on incontestable ground.  The words of Jesus need no credentials, they carry their own credentials; they authenticate themselves.  Christian men and women reading, e.g., the fourteenth of St. John’s Gospel say within themselves that if these are not the words of Jesus, a greater than Jesus is here; and they are right.  The oft-quoted challenge of John Stuart Mill is as unanswerable to-day as ever it was.  “It is of no use to say,” he declares, “that Christ, as exhibited in the Gospels, is not historical, and that we know not how much of what is admirable has been super-added by the traditions of His followers....  Who among His disciples, or among their proselytes, was capable of inventing the sayings ascribed to Jesus, or of imagining the life and character revealed in the Gospels?"[4]

I

Assuming, therefore, without further discussion, the essential trustworthiness of the Gospel records, let us pass on to consider in this introductory chapter some general characteristics of Christ’s teaching as a whole.

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