D. Rationalistic Theories as to the origin of the gospels. These are attempts to eliminate the miraculous element from the New Testament records, and to reconstruct the sacred history upon principles of naturalism.
Against them we urge the general objection that they are unscientific in their principle and method. To set out in an examination of the New Testament documents with the assumption that all history is a mere natural development, and that miracles are therefore impossible, is to make history a matter, not of testimony, but of a priori speculation. It indeed renders any history of Christ and his apostles impossible, since the witnesses whose testimony with regard to miracles is discredited can no longer be considered worthy of credence in their account of Christ?s life or doctrine.
In Germany, half a century ago, ?a man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees? ( <197405>Psalm 74:5, A.V.), just as among the American Indians he was not counted a man who could not show his scalps. The critics fortunately scalped each other; see Tyler, Theology of Greek Poets, 79 ? on Homer. Nicoll, The Church?s One Foundation, 15 ? ?Like the mummers of old, skeptical critics send one before them with a broom to sweep the stage clear of everything for their drama. If we assume at the threshold of the gospel study that everything of the nature of miracle is impossible, then the specific questions are decided before the criticism begins to operate in earnest.? Matthew Arnold: ?Our popular religion at present conceives the birth, ministry and death of Christ as altogether steeped in prodigy, brimful of miracle, ? and miracles do not happen.? This presupposition influences the investigations of Kuenen, and of A. E. Abbott, in his article on the Gospels in the Encyclopedia Britannica. We give special attention to four of the theories based upon this assumption.
1st . The Myth-theory of Strauss (1808-1874).
According to this view, the gospels are crystallization into story of messianic ideas, which had for several generations filled the minds of imaginative men in Palestine. The myth is a narrative in which such ideas are unconsciously clothed, and from which the element of intentional and deliberate deception is absent.
This early view of Strauss, which has become identified with his name, was exchanged in late years for a more advanced view which extended the meaning of the word ?myths? so as to include all narratives that spring out of a theological idea, and it admitted the existence of ?pious frauds? in the gospels. Baur, he says, first convinced him that the author of the fourth
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