SCAURUS ON THE CROSS

Then the letter continued, “These two lines, my dear Silanus, represent
two portions of Mark’s ‘_gospel_’—which word you know, I presume, that
the Christians use, as the Greeks do, to mean ‘_good news_.’ Well,
the short thin line represents the portion given by Mark to the moral
precepts or sayings of Christ. The long thick line represents the portion
given to framework—for example, to describing a certain John, called the
Baptist, who, so to speak, introduces Christ to the people; to casting
out devils; to healing specified diseases, fever, leprosy, paralysis,
blindness, deafness, dumbness, lameness; to the raising up of a child
apparently dead; to the destruction of a herd of swine by suffering
devils to enter into them; to walking on water; to calming a tempest; to
a feeding (or rather two feedings) of thousands of men with a few loaves
and fishes; to blasting a fig-tree (but that comes later on); to the
character of Herod the tetrarch, and his birth-day feasting, ending in
the beheading of the above-mentioned John; to the finding of an ass by
the disciples in exact accordance with Christ’s predictions and precepts;
lastly, to very minute details of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. There
are also a few fables, called parables, likening the good news, or
gospel, to seed, which will not grow if sown in wrong places but will
grow without man’s interference if sown rightly. But, all this while,
about the good news itself, and about its nature, and about the persons
to whom the good news is to be brought, and about the good that it will
do people—hardly one word! Do not take my word for this. Take your own
copy of Mark and look at the first words of Jesus, ‘Repent and believe
the gospel.’ But what gospel? Jesus has not mentioned the word before.
This is a specimen of the whole work. It is not a gospel at all. It
leaves out essential things. It is only the frame of a gospel.”

I did not see at first how to answer this. But on looking into the matter
it seemed to me that Scaurus had not noticed Mark’s first words, “The
beginning of the _gospel of Jesus Christ as it is written in Isaiah the
prophet_.” Moreover Christ’s first words were not “Repent,” but “_The
time is fulfilled_, and the kingdom of God hath drawn near. Repent and
believe in the gospel.” Now the first mention of “preaching the gospel”
in Isaiah is in a passage that begins thus: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my
people, saith God … because _her humiliation is fulfilled, her sin is
loosed.… The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of
the Lord_ … and the glory of the Lord shall appear and all flesh shall
see _the salvation of God_ …”; and soon afterwards come the words, “Unto
a high mountain get thee up, O thou _that preachest the gospel_ to Sion.”
A marginal note in my Isaiah said that—instead of “_her humiliation
is fulfilled_”—the right translation was “_her time of service is
fulfilled_,” which resembled Mark, “_The time is fulfilled_”—words
omitted by Matthew and Luke.

Reviewing Mark and Isaiah together, I came to the conclusion that Mark
took for granted that his readers would refer to the passage in Isaiah,
and that he meant, in effect, this: “_The beginning of the gospel of
Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s gospel_ (namely, ‘Comfort
ye my people because _the time is fulfilled and her sin is loosed_’).”
John the Baptist, according to Mark, fulfilled _Isaiah’s prophecy_. He
was the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way,” namely, for
this gospel of the salvation of God. Then came Jesus saying, in the words
_of Isaiah_, “‘_The time is fulfilled_,’ that is, _for the gospel of the
‘loosing of sins_’; believe in this gospel.” Looked at in this way,
Mark, though brief and obscure, did not seem to me to have “_left out_”
what was (as Scaurus said) “essential,” but to have referred his readers
to Isaiah for what was essential, if they were not already familiar with
the passage, so that they might understand the meaning to be, “Believe
in _the gospel of the loosing_, or _forgiveness, of sins, predicted by
Isaiah, and fulfilled now_.”

Scaurus’s next objection was this: “Soon after telling us that Jesus
called four men away from being fishers of fish to be ‘fishers of
men’—without explaining the nature or object of this ‘fishing,’ Mark
says, ‘Men were amazed at his teaching. For his way of teaching was that
of one having authority and not as the way of the scribes.’ But what
kind of ‘_authority_’? Listen to the rabble, how they define it (a few
lines lower down). ‘What is this? A novel teaching! With _authority_ does
he dictate even to the unclean spirits and they obey him.’ Now Flavius
Josephus has told me that he himself has known a conjurer or exorcist
cast out an unclean spirit or demon—in the presence of Vespasian and
his officers—and make it knock over a bucket of water in its exit: but
he never told me—and you may be sure he would never have supposed—that
the conjurer, on the strength of his exorcisms, would claim to preach a
gospel!”

This struck me at first as a very forcible objection. And I was not
surprised that Matthew omitted the whole of this narrative; for it is
liable to be misunderstood. But I found on examination that Jesus did
not (as Scaurus said) “claim to preach a gospel” on the strength of such
exorcisms. On the contrary, Mark and Luke say soon afterwards, that Jesus
“would not allow the demons to speak because they knew him.” Moreover I
found that the man from whom the demon was said to have been expelled
cried out that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.” So it appeared possible
that Jesus—if he possessed, like Apollo or Æsculapius, some divine power
of healing—might heal lunatics or possessed persons among others, and yet
might not claim, on the strength of such exorcisms alone, to preach a
gospel. From what I had read in Paul’s epistles, and also from my recent
reading of Isaiah’s prediction of the “gospel,” it seemed to me more
likely that Jesus would connect his gospel—though what the connexion
would be I did not yet see—with the forgiveness of sins.

And this indeed I found to be the subject of Scaurus’s next objection;
“Then Jesus says that he will cure a man of paralysis in order that the
spectators ‘may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to
forgive sins.’ Now this is the first mention of ‘the Son of man.’ Who, or
of what nature, is this Son of man? There is no answer.”

Scaurus spoke thus, perhaps, because he had in his mind some passages in
the Jewish scriptures where a “son of man” is described as coming on the
clouds to judge mankind, and others where a “son of man” means “son of a
mere mortal.” He may have thought that Mark ought to have explained which
of the two was meant.

But Paul’s epistles had shewn me that, when he regarded Christ as having
authority over all things, he, Paul, was in the habit of quoting one of
the most beautiful of David’s Psalms, which said, “What is man that thou
art mindful of him, and _the son of man_ that thou visitest him? For thou
hast made him but little lower than the angels.” Now here my MS. said,
in the margin of the Psalm—as I quoted it above—“_but little lower than
God_.” Then David continued, “Thou hast _subjected all things under his
feet_.” These words “subjecting all things” are frequently applied by
Paul to the reign or lordship of Christ over mankind. And “to subject”
was precisely the word used by Epictetus concerning the ideal ruler,
when he taught us that Socrates had the power “so to frame his hearers”
that they would “_subject_” their wills to his. It seemed to me, then,
that if Scaurus had said to Mark “Why did you not explain which _son of
man_ Jesus meant?” Mark might have replied, “_Because the Lord Jesus did
not recognise two ‘sons of man.’_ He taught us that the son of man on
earth is intended by God to be the son of man in heaven, and that the
son of man, even on earth, is superior to the moon and the stars, having
‘authority over all things’.”

Afterwards I found that Jesus (in Matthew) quotes elsewhere part of
another passage in this same psalm of David, namely, “Out of the mouth
of babes and sucklings hast thou established strength, because of thine
adversaries, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” Paul
taught that the “adversaries” of the Lord are the angels of Satan,
and the “enemy” is the devil, and these are like wild beasts seeking
to devour the soul of man. David, therefore, might be interpreted
spiritually as meaning that God has given “authority” to the Son of
man, not only over the visible “beasts of the field” but also over the
invisible “beasts” that attack the heart of man. “Over these”—Paul
might say—“hath the Son of man received authority that he may still the
enemy and avenger,” that is to say, that he may put Satan to silence
by delivering man from the bondage of sin. Some thought of this kind
occurred to me at the time. And I was confirmed in it afterwards when I
found in the gospels elsewhere mention of “authority” to “trample on, or
rule over,” wild “beasts” of various kinds. The facts seemed to shew that
Jesus often meditated on this beautiful poem of David and on the power
given by God to “the Son of man” and to “babes and sucklings”—to whom
Jesus appears often to refer under the title of “the little ones.”

These considerations to some extent met Scaurus’s next objection: “Now as
to _authority to forgive sins_—what is meant by this? I can forgive you
a _debt_ of a thousand sesterces. But I cannot forgive you a _theft_ of
a thousand sesterces—except in the language of the people. Whether you
stole them from me or from somebody else, that makes no difference. You
remain a thief—a past thief of course—till the end of your days. Jupiter
himself, as Horace in effect declares, cannot unthieve you.”

This caused me a great deal of thought. It was logical, yet I felt it
was not true. It seemed to me, for example, that if two sons had stolen
money from two several fathers, one father might so deal with the child
that he might feel himself forgiven, even though he had to pay the money
back again; while another father, though not exacting the money, might
make the boy feel that he was not forgiven, and that he would be a thief
all his life long. Even Epictetus, I remembered, said about Diogenes,
“He goes about like a physician feeling the pulses of his patients, and
saying, ‘You have a fever; you, a headache; you, the gout. You must fast;
you must eat; you must not bathe; you must have the knife; you must have
cautery.’” He was talking of mental or spiritual diseases. Well, to be
slavishly afraid of God—was not this a disease? And to one thus diseased,
might not a healing Son of God come with a message from the Father, “He
loves you, though He may punish. He will punish as a Father that loves.
Steal no more; He will not treat you as a thief. Sin no more; He will not
treat you as a sinner.”

Epictetus once declared that Diogenes had been sent before us as a
reconnoitrer into the regions of death and had brought back his report,
“There is nothing terrible there.” I never could quite understand on
what grounds our Teacher based this assertion, unless it was because the
Cynic himself had absolutely no fear of death. It was more easy for me to
understand—I do not say, to prove, but to understand—that a great prophet
might bring a similar report from the Father of men, “I come from the
House of God to tell you that there is nothing terrible there—except for
the cruel and base. There is nothing but kindness and justice and true
fatherhood.” About the alleged “report” of Diogenes, I had felt that—if
I believed it—it would deliver me from bondage to the fear of death.
Similarly I felt, about the message or gospel of this Jewish prophet,
that—if I believed it—it might raise me above fears into a region of love
and trust and loyalty to the righteous Father. This was only theory. I
did not believe it. But I felt the possibility of believing and of being
strengthened by the belief.

Scaurus next objected to the words, “I came not to call the righteous
but sinners.” This was in Mark and Matthew. “Luke,” he said, “adds ‘to
repentance’; and that of course is meant. Now it is quite right that
‘sinners’ should be ‘called’ to ‘repentance.’ But is that ‘good news’? Is
that ‘gospel’? And, if it is, what about ‘the righteous’? They, it seems,
are not ‘called.’ There is no ‘gospel’ for them!”

Here Scaurus seemed on strong ground. And I felt that he might urge
against Mark what Epictetus says about Diogenes, namely, that the ideal
physician inspects others, besides those who are manifestly diseased,
in order to see who are healthy and who are not. But then I asked
myself, “Who are ‘the righteous’?” And the answer Paul put into my mouth
was, “None are righteous except through faith in God’s Son.” That is
to say, “None are righteous save through the Spirit of Sonship. None
are righteous through the Law.” Moreover, on examining the context, I
found that the words “I came not to call the righteous” were uttered to
unrighteous, envious people, the Pharisees, who grudged forgiveness of
sins to the sinners. Elsewhere Luke described the Pharisees as “counting
themselves to be righteous and despising others.” That is, they were
“righteous” in their own estimation. In reality, then, Jesus regarded
all men as in need of health, that is to say, in need of righteousness.
Also, what Jesus called “repenting” was what the prophets call “turning
to Jehovah.” So the message of the gospel was, “Turn ye to the Lord
and He will forgive you and will grant health to your souls.” This was
addressed to all that needed better health, that is, to all the nation.
But some made themselves blind to their own sinful acts and deaf to the
sinful utterances of their own hearts. These could not hear the gospel.
The “call” of the gospel did not come into their ears. But it was not the
gospel’s fault but theirs.

The more I thought over Scaurus’s trenchant criticism, the stronger
grew my suspicion that Romans and Greeks might be inferior to the best
of the Jews in the knowledge of the depths of human nature. I knew from
Paul’s epistles that the apostle recognised a certain mysterious power
of forgiving sins and infirmities by bearing them. This Paul called “the
law of Christ,” saying, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the
law of Christ,” and again, “If anyone be overtaken in a fault, do ye, who
are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness.” This word,
“restore,” came into my mind when Scaurus said, “Once a thief, always a
thief.” It seemed to me truer to say that a father might “restore” his
child, after the theft, so that he might be honest for the rest of his
life. This power of “restoring” was (as indeed it still is) a great
mystery to me. But it is a mysterious fact, not a mere imagination.

Also Scaurus himself said, “It is very likely that many of the poorer
Jews were called ‘sinners’ by the Pharisees for breaking small and
perhaps disputed rules about purification or about the exact observance
of the sabbath. This my rabbi admitted, although he did not care to say
much about it. I can understand that Christ might deal epigrammatically
(so to speak) with poor creatures of this kind by pronouncing them
‘forgiven’ or ‘righteous.’ But they would be just as ‘righteous’ as
before; neither more righteous nor less righteous; his ‘pronouncing’
would make no difference. The Jews closely connect ‘pronouncing
righteous’ and ‘making righteous,’ as though the sentence of the judge
is anything more than the expression of the judge’s opinion! But it is a
pure delusion.”

I did not think Scaurus was right. It did not seem to me that the voice
of the true Son of man, saying, “I pronounce you righteous in the name of
the Father of men,” would be of the same kind or efficacy as the voice of
a lawyer, saying, “Having in view sect. 3 of chap. 4 of such and such a
Code, I pronounce you not guilty.” I had come to feel that the Son of man
represented the “authority” of humanity—divine humanity, such humanity
as commends itself (without support from statute law) to the consciences
of mankind. The Pharisees (I thought) might have _made_ some of these
poor men really _unrighteous_ by making them frightened of God—as though
He were an austere lawgiver or hard taskmaster. The Son, delivering them
from this servile terror, and raising them into a wholesome fear, that
is to say, into a free and loving reverence for a righteous God, might
bring the Spirit of the Father into their hearts, thus _making_ them
_righteous_. If so, Christ’s voice, saying “I forgive you,” would not
be a mere judge’s “sentence,” or expression of “opinion.” It would be a
power, causing the guilty to feel, and to be, forgiven.

Scaurus then said, “Now pass on, and you will find nothing worth
mentioning except a wilderness of wonders and portents until the twelve
apostles are sent out to ‘preach the gospel.’ And now, say you, Jesus
must surely tell his missionaries what this ‘gospel’ is. But no. Not
a word about it. Mark himself says, ‘They preached that men should
repent.’ Wholesome tidings, no doubt, but hardly _good_ tidings!” Here,
as before, Scaurus (as it seems to me) had failed to see that Jews would
understand Mark’s meaning to be “They preached that men should turn to
God and receive forgiveness”—which would be “good tidings.” Moreover he
had omitted Christ’s doctrine that “the Son of man is lord even of the
sabbath,” to which Mark alone (I found) prefixed “The sabbath was made
for man and not man for the sabbath.” According to this doctrine God
seemed to say to men, “Priests, temples, sacrifices, fasts, sabbaths,
rites and ceremonies, psalms, hymns, and prayers—all these I have given
you for your own sake, to draw you nearer to me.” This, in a way,
was like the doctrine of Epictetus, that each man must take an oath
to himself to think of his own interest. But in another way it was
different. For Matthew added, “I desire kindness, not sacrifice.” That
went to the root of the difference between Epictetus and Christ. The
former said, “Think of your own virtue”; the latter, “Think how your
neighbour needs your kindness.” According to the gospel, the rule of God
was, “Draw near to me.” Then, in answer to men’s question, “How draw
near?” the reply was, “Draw near to one another. That is the best way.
Drawing near to me by sabbaths or sacrifices is a second best way. The
second best must not interfere with the first best.”

It appeared to me that Scaurus dealt with Mark more severely than he
would have dealt with Plato. Plato regards “justice,” not as obedience
to the written laws, but as “doing that which is best for all.” If
therefore retribution of good and evil comes on the welldoer and on the
evildoer, severally, as being “the best thing” for each and for all,
this is “justice.” But Scaurus quoted Mark, “In the moment when ye stand
praying, forgive, if ye have any charge against anyone, that your Father
also in heaven may forgive you your trespasses,” and then said, “This is
not just. If I forgive my slave for robbing me or for cruelly maiming
one of his fellow-slaves, does it follow that Jupiter should forgive me
for theft or murder? Not in the least. He ought to punish me twice over,
first, for unjustly forgiving crime, and then for being a criminal
myself.” Here Scaurus was thinking of remitting penalty, whereas Mark
meant bearing the burden of sin. And, although the matter was not then as
clear to me as it is now, I could see how a man wronged, and prosecuting
the wrong-doer, not as offending against society and justice but as
offending against himself—a man that does not wish to “do the best thing”
for offenders and for the community—creates for himself an image of a God
bad and selfish and unforgiving like himself; so that either he trembles
before his bad God and is a slave; or else he regards himself as the
favourite of a bad God, and becomes confirmed in his own badness.

On the whole, though I was forced to admit the justice of many
charges that Scaurus brought against Mark—and especially the charge
of disproportion, and of neglecting great doctrines while emphasizing
small details of narrative—still I was satisfied that Mark did contain
a gospel, namely, the good tidings of the forgiveness of sins. Scaurus
called Mark’s gospel a mere frame. It seemed to me that it would have
been less untrue to call it a picture in which the principal figure was
not clearly seen because of intervening objects and inferior figures. Or
it might be called a drama in which the leading character is too often
absent from the stage; or, when present, he speaks too little, while
minor characters are allowed to speak too much.

Scaurus continued, “I pass over a good many columns in Mark before I come
to anything of the nature of a precept. Then I find the following, ‘There
is nothing outside the man, entering into him, that can defile him.’ Now
you might suppose that this would have been good news, addressed as it
is, to the needy multitude. For it would have enabled them (you may say)
to eat pork like their Greek neighbours and would have saved them trouble
and expense in preparing food.

“But look at the context. Jesus is upholding the written law of Moses
against the teachers of unwritten traditions. These teachers told people
that if a particle of this or that came off their hands into their
mouths while they were eating, they were defiled. These traditions also
prescribed minute regulations about preparing meat, and about avoiding
meat sold in the markets of Greek cities. Look at Paul’s Corinthian
letters about this. These regulations must have been very inconvenient
for the poor Jews in the Greek cities of Galilee. Jesus stood up for the
poor, and for the written law, which said nothing about such details.
Long after the crucifixion, Peter was told by ‘the Lord’ in a vision
(you will find it in the Acts) that he might eat anything he liked, pork
included. But Jesus said nothing of the kind before his death. Turn to
the Acts and you will find it as I have said.”

I turned, and found, as usual, that Scaurus was right, though there
was no special mention of pork in the Acts, but only of “beasts and
creeping things,” which Peter calls “unclean.” Scaurus continued, “Now
look carefully at what follows in Mark and Matthew. Mark represents the
disciples—but Matthew represents Peter—as questioning Christ privately
about this startling saying. The questioners are said to have called it a
‘parable.’ There was no ‘parable’ about it at all. But the fact was that,
_after the resurrection, it was revealed to Peter, or to the disciples_,
that the meaning of the saying ‘Nothing outside defileth’ went far beyond
its original scope; so that it swept away the whole of the Levitical
ordinances about things ‘unclean.’ If you examine Mark’s words carefully
you will see that he inserts a comment of his own (which Matthew omits)
namely that Jesus _uttered these words_ ‘_purifying all kinds of food_.’
If by ‘purifying,’ Mark meant ‘purifying _in effect_,’ or ‘purifying,
_as the disciples subsequently understood_,’ then he was right. If he
meant ‘purifying _at once_,’ or ‘purifying _in such a way as to abrogate
immediately the Levitical prohibitions_,’ then he was wrong; for that was
not the meaning.

“What indeed do you suppose would have happened, if Jesus and his
disciples had sat down to a dinner of pork on that same day? They would
have been stoned by the multitude. The meaning was limited as I have
said above. Mark has probably mixed together what occurred before, and
what occurred after, the crucifixion. It was very natural. How many
of the ‘dark sayings’ or ‘parables’ of Jesus might remain ‘dark’ to
the disciples, till they reflected on them after his death! Moreover
the evangelists believed that Jesus, after his death, rose again and
appeared on several occasions to the disciples, apart from the rest of
the world—that is, ‘in private’—and that he explained to them after
death what had been dark sayings during his life. How inevitable for
biographers—writing thirty, forty, or fifty years after the events they
narrated—sometimes to confuse explanations, or other words of Christ,
uttered ‘in private’ after death, with those uttered before death,
whether in private or not! I shall have to mention other instances of
such confusion. It is not surprising that Luke omits the narrative.”

I could not deny the force of this. But, though it derogated from Mark
as a witness, it did not seem to me to derogate from Christ as a prophet.
I felt that no wise teacher could have desired, thus by a side-blow, to
sweep away the whole of the national code of purifications. So I was
ready to accept Scaurus’s view, at all events provisionally.

“I pass over,” said Scaurus, “the precept, ‘Beware of leaven,’ which
was certainly metaphorical; and two narratives of feeding multitudes
with ‘loaves,’ which in my opinion are metaphorical; and a mention of
‘crumbs,’ which my reason leads me to interpret in one way, while my
desire suggests another. About this I shall say something later on, as
also about predictions of being killed and rising again. Now I reach
these words, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, let him disown himself,
and _take up his cross and follow me_. For whosoever desires to save his
life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for the sake of me
and the gospel shall save it.’ Note that these words are preceded by
a prediction that the Son of man must be ‘killed.’ Also remember that
the ‘cross’ is a punishment sanctioned by Roman but not by Jewish law.
Bearing these facts in mind, imagine yourself in the crowd, and tell me
what you would think Christ meant, if he turned round to you and said,
‘You must take up your cross.’ Do not read on to see what I think; for I
doubt whether Christ used these words. But, if he did use them, tell me
what you think he meant by them.”

I was taken aback by this. For I perceived that the sense required a
metaphorical rendering, and, at the same time, that such a metaphor was
almost impossible among any Jews, _before Christ’s crucifixion_. At first
I tried to justify it from Paul’s epistles, which declared that, in
Christ’s death, “_all died_”—meaning that all, by sympathy, died to sin
and rose again to righteousness. Paul said also “I have been crucified
with Christ,” and “our old man”—meaning “our old human nature”—“has been
crucified with Him,” and “the world has been crucified to me and I to the
world.” But these expressions were all based on the Christian belief that
the “cross” was the way to “resurrection.” They were quite intelligible
after the resurrection, but not before it.

Then I tried to imagine myself in the circle of disciples surrounding
Socrates in prison, and the Master, with the bowl of poison in his hands,
preparing to drink it, and looking up to us and saying, “If you intend
to be disciples worthy of me, you too must be prepared to take up the
hemlock bowl.” What, I asked, should I have understood by this? It seemed
to me that the words could only mean “You, too, must be prepared to be
put to death by your countrymen.”

Now as the hemlock bowl was the regular penalty among the Athenians,
so the cross (as Scaurus had said) was the regular penalty among the
Romans _but not among the Jews_. So, when I tried honestly to respond to
Scaurus’s appeal, and to imagine myself in the crowd following Jesus, and
the Master turning round to us, and saying, “Take up your cross,” I was
obliged to admit, “I should have taken the Master to mean, ‘If you are to
be worthy followers of mine, you must be prepared _to be put to death as
rebels by the Romans_’.”

Scaurus took the same view. “Well,” he continued, “I will anticipate your
answer, for it seems to me you can only come to one conclusion. You,
in the crowd, would take the words to mean that you must follow your
Master to the death against the Romans. But all intelligent readers of
the Christian books ought to know that he could not have said that. He
was a visionary, and utterly averse to violence, so averse that he was
on one occasion reproached for his inaction by John the Baptist—who once
said to him, in effect, ‘Why do you leave me in prison? Why do you not
stir a hand to release me?’ Moreover, if Jesus had said this, what would
the chief priests have needed more than this, to get Pilate to put him
to death: ‘This man said to the rabble, If you are intending to follow
me, you must go with the cross on your shoulders’? ‘Can you prove this?’
would have been Pilate’s reply. They would have proved it. Then sentence
would have followed at once as a matter of course. And who can deny that
it would have been just?”

I certainly could not deny it. Then Scaurus pointed out to me how
Luke avoided this dangerous interpretation, by inserting “daily,” so
as to give the words a metaphorical twist, “Let him take up his cross
_daily_.” But this, he said, was manifestly an addition of Luke’s. If
Jesus had inserted “daily” why should Mark and Matthew have omitted it?
“Daily” would make no sense till a generation had passed away, so that
“to be crucified with Christ” had become a metaphorical expression for
mortifying the flesh. On this point, at all events, Scaurus seemed to me
to be right.

He continued as follows, “I am disposed to think that Mark has
misunderstood a Jewish phrase as referring to the cross when it really
referred to something else. You know that, in Rome, a rascally slave,
regarded as being on the way to crucifixion, is called ‘_yoke-bearer_,’
which means practically ‘_cross-bearer_.’ Mark, who has a good many
Latinisms, might regard _‘take the yoke’ as meaning ‘take the cross’—if
the former expression could be proved to have been used by Jesus_. Still
more easily might ‘_take the yoke_’ be regarded as equivalent to ‘_take
the cross_’ _if it could be proved that the Jews themselves connected
‘taking the yoke’ with martyrdom_.

“Both these facts can be proved. In the first place, Christ actually
said to the disciples, ‘_Take my yoke_ upon you.’ It is true that
this saying is preserved by Matthew alone; but its omission by others
is easily explained, as I will presently shew. In my judgment, it is
certain that Christ did give this precept, and that it had nothing to do
with crucifixion. The context in Matthew declares that the kingdom of
heaven is revealed only to ‘babes’—whom Christ elsewhere calls ‘little
ones’ or those who make themselves ‘least’ in the kingdom of God—and
soon afterwards come the words, ‘_Take my yoke upon you_ and learn from
me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ This is the fundamental truth
of Christ’s teaching, that those who make themselves the humblest of
servants to one another are greatest in his ‘kingdom.’ In order to reign,
one must serve, or ‘_take the yoke_.’

“The next fact is that Jews of the present day—so I am credibly
informed—would say of a Jewish martyr that he ‘_took the yoke_ upon
himself,’ when he made a formal profession of obedience to the Law just
before death. This I must ask you to take for granted. It would be
too long to prove and explain.” I suppose Scaurus heard this from the
teacher he called “his rabbi.” It was confirmed, to my own knowledge,
by something that happened nearly thirty years ago when one of the most
famous Jewish teachers, Akiba by name, was put to death under Hadrian. I
heard it said by a credible eyewitness that “they combed his flesh with
combs of iron,” and another added “Yes, and Akiba, all the while, kept
_taking upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven_,” by which he
meant repeating the profession of faith.

“A third fact,” said Scaurus, “is that the Christians, from a very early
period, used the word ‘_yoke_’ in a depreciatory sense to mean the
‘bondage’—as they called it—of the Law of Moses. Paul calls the latter
‘_the yoke of bondage_.’ The Christians, at their first public council,
speak of it as ‘_a yoke_’; and a Christian writer named Barnabas says
that ‘the new law’ is ‘_without the yoke of necessity_.’ I suspect that
among the Greeks and Romans the servile associations of ‘yoke’ have also
tended to the disuse of the term among the Christians of the west. You
may object that the associations of ‘cross’ are still more disgraceful
than those of ‘yoke.’ But I do not think they would be so for Christians,
who regarded the disgrace of the cross as a step upward to what they
call ‘the crown of life.’ Indeed I am rather surprised that Matthew’s
tradition ‘Take my yoke upon you’ has been retained at all, even by a
single evangelist.”

Most of this was new to me. But, even if it was true—as seemed to me not
unlikely—the same conclusion followed as above. The mistake derogated
from Mark, not from Christ. Indeed Scaurus’s interpretation seemed to
me to exalt Christ. For might not some people, of austere and fanatical
minds, find it easier to “_take up the cross_,” that is, to lacerate and
torture themselves, than to “_take up the yoke_,” that is, to make their
lives subservient to the community in a spirit of willing self-sacrifice?
Indeed Scaurus himself said, “If I am right, the Christians have lost
by this misunderstanding. When I say ‘lost,’ I mean ‘lost in respect of
morality.’ For some may ‘_take up the cross_’ like the priests of Cybele,
finding a pleasure in gashing themselves—such is human nature. But it
is not so exciting a thing to ‘_take up the yoke_’ if it implies making
oneself a drudge for life to commonplace people.”

This seemed very true. And afterwards I was not surprised to find that
the fourth gospel contains no precept to “take up the cross.” But it
commands Christians to “love one another”—a precept that nowhere occurs
in Mark. Also what Scaurus said about “making oneself a drudge” was, in
effect, inculcated by the fourth gospel where it commands the disciples
to “wash one another’s feet.” Sometimes I have asked why this gospel did
not restore the old tradition about “yoke.” Perhaps the writer avoided it
as he avoids “faith,” and “repentance,” and other technical terms that
might come between Christians and Christ. Scaurus himself said, “There
seems to me more morality in the old rule of Moses, ‘Love thy neighbour
as thyself’ than in either ‘Take up the cross’ or ‘Take up the yoke.’
If ever this Christian superstition were to overrun the world, I could
conceive of a time when half the Christians might fight with the war-cry
of ‘the yoke,’ and the other half with the war-cry of ‘the cross,’
cutting one another’s throats for these emblems. But I could not so
easily conceive of a time when men would ever cut one another’s throats
with the war-cry, ‘We love one another’.”

These words of Scaurus seemed to me at the time to be quite true. Now,
forty-five years afterwards, they seem to me true as to fact, but not
quite true as to interpretation. For, since what Scaurus called “the old
rule of Moses” included “Love God,” as well as “Love thy neighbour,” it
followed that the Lord Jesus, in saying “Take my yoke,” meant “Serve
God,” as well as “Serve man.” And, in order to serve God, must not one be
prepared to suffer, as God also is called “longsuffering”? And of such
“suffering” can there be any better emblem than Christ’s cross?

I cannot honestly deny the force of the evidence adduced by Scaurus to
prove that the Saviour did not really utter the precept of “taking up
the cross,” and that He did utter the precept of “taking up the yoke.”
But I can honestly accept the former as an interpretation of the latter,
an interpretation fit for Greeks and Romans when the gospel was first
preached, and likely to be fit for all the races of the world till the
time of the coming of the Lord. If Scaurus is right, only the precept of
the yoke was inculcated by Christ in word. But all agree that the precept
of the cross was inculcated by Christ in act. Both metaphors seem needed,
and many more, to help the disciples of the Lord to apprehend the nature
of His Kingdom, or Family.

Scaurus continued as follows: “I now come to a passage where Mark
represents Christ as saying, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my
words, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him.’ This suggests to me
for the first time (re-perusing these strange books after an interval of
more than twenty years) that I may have been blaming Mark for not doing
what, as a fact, he had no intention of doing—I mean, for not giving a
collection of Christ’s utterances in connexion with the ‘good news.’ If
we were to question Mark about the expression ‘me and my words,’ and to
say, ‘What words do you refer to?’ perhaps he might reply, ‘I do not
profess to give Christ’s _words_, but only their tenor.’ Perhaps Mark has
in view a person, or character, rather than any gospel of ‘words.’ And
I think I ought to have explained that, at the very outset of his work,
Mark described a divine Voice (a thing frequently mentioned in Jewish
traditions of the present day about their rabbis) calling from heaven
to Christ, ‘Thou art my beloved Son.’ It is this perhaps that Mark may
consider a ‘gospel,’ namely, that God, instead of sending prophets to the
Jews, as in old days, now sends a Son.”

This did not seem to me a complete statement of the fact. “Gospel,” as
I have said above, seemed to me to have meant, in Mark, the gospel of
forgiveness of sins promised by Isaiah. And Scaurus himself was justly
dissatisfied with his own explanation, for he proceeded, “Still, this
is not satisfactory. For ought not the Son to have a message, as a
prophet has? Nay, ought not the Son to have a much better message? The
Voice from heaven is repeated at the stage of the gospel at which we
have now arrived. But both before and now, it is apparently heard by no
unbelievers. Nor does Christ himself ever repeat it to unbelievers. He
never says, ‘I am _the Son of God_,’ nor even, ‘I am _a Son of God_.’ He
simply goes about, curing diseases, and saying ‘The sabbath is made for
man,’ and, on one occasion, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee,’ and, ‘The son
of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins,’ and a few more things of
this sort. What is there in all this that would induce Christ to use such
an expression as, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of _my words_’?
I could understand his saying ‘of me,’ but not ‘of _my words_.’ Surely
it would have been better to say, ‘Whosoever shall be unjust, or an
adulterer, or a murderer, I will be ashamed of him’.”

Here it seemed to me that Scaurus had not quite succeeded in his attempt
to do justice to Mark by reconsidering his gospel in the light of the
words “Thou art my beloved Son.” For suppose a Son of God to have come
into the world, like an Apollo or Æsculapius of souls. Suppose Him to
have had a power, beyond that of Moses and the prophets, of instilling
into their hearts a new kind of love of God and a new kind of love of
neighbour. Lastly, suppose this Son of God to feel quite contented, and
indeed best pleased, to call Himself Son of man, because He regarded
man as the image of God, and because He felt, within Himself, God and
man made one. Would not such a Son of God say, just as Epictetus might
say, “Preserve the Man,” “Give up everything for the Man,” “Save the
Man within you, destroy the Beast”? Only, being a Jew, He would not say
“Man,” but “Son of man,” exhorting His disciples to be loyal to “the Son
of man” and never to disown or deny “the Son of man.”

I was confirmed in this view by a mention (in this part of Mark) of
“angels” with “the Son of man,” thus: “The Son of man also shall be
ashamed of him when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the
holy angels.” This seemed to say that the Son of man although, as David
said according to one interpretation of the Psalm, “_below the angels_”
on earth, will be manifested in the glory of the Father _with the
attendant angels_ in heaven—thus reconciling the two aspects of the Son
of man described by David and Daniel.

I noticed, however, that Matthew, in this passage, does not say (as Mark
and Luke do) “the Son of man will be ashamed”; and it occurred to me
that, where Christ used the phrase “Son of man,” and spoke about “the
coming of the Son of man,” different evangelists might render these
phrases differently so as to make the meaning brief and clear for Greeks.
Indeed Scaurus himself suggested something of this kind, saying that some
might use “I” or “me” for “Son of man” (in Christ’s words). He also added
that “the Son of man” might sometimes be paraphrased as “the Rule, or
Law, of Humanity”; and, said he, “Matthew has a very instructive parable,
in which the Son of man in his glory and with his angels is introduced as
seated on his throne, judging the Gentiles at the end of the world. Then
those who have been kind and helpful and humane are rewarded because—so
says the Son of man—‘Ye have been kind to _me_.’ ‘When have we been kind
to _thee_?’ they reply. The Son answers, ‘Ye have been kind to _the least
and humblest of my brethren_. Therefore ye have been kind to me.’ This
goes to the root of Christ’s doctrine. The Son of man is humanity and
divinity, one with man and one with God, humanity divine.”

Scaurus went on to say that Mark’s sayings about the Son of man would
have been much clearer if some parable or statement of this kind had been
inserted making it clear that Christ as it were identified himself with
the empire of the Son of man mentioned by the prophet Daniel, against the
empire of the Beasts. “There is always a tendency,” said Scaurus, “among
men of the world, and perhaps among statesmen quite as much as among
soldiers—yes, and it exists among some philosophers, too, spite of their
creeds—to deify force. I own I admire Christ for deifying humanity. But
his biographers—Mark, in particular—do not make the deification clear.
If I were to lend my copy of Mark to a fairly educated Roman gentleman,
I really should not be surprised if he were to come to me, after reading
it right through from beginning to end, and ask me, ‘Who _is_ this Son
of man?’” These words impressed me at the time; but much more afterwards
when I actually met this very question in the fourth gospel, asked by the
multitude at the end of Christ’s preaching, “Who _is_ this Son of man?”

“After this,” said Scaurus (not speaking quite accurately, for he
omitted, as I will presently shew, one short but important saying of
Christ) “comes a statement that a certain kind of lunacy cannot be
cured by the disciples unless they fast as well as pray. But here, I am
convinced, Mark has made some mistake through not understanding ‘faith as
a grain of mustard-seed,’ which the parallel Matthew has. That is a very
interesting phrase, which I must go into another time.

“Close on this, occurs a prediction, with part of which I will deal
later on. But about part of it I will say at once that I find it quite
unintelligible. It is, ‘The Son of man is on the point of being betrayed
into the hands _of men_.’ Why ‘_of men_’? Surely he could not be betrayed
into the hands of anyone else! I observe that Mark and Luke say, ‘They
were ignorant of this saying,’ and I am not surprised. I presume it
is simply a repetition of Christ’s prediction of his violent death,
introduced in order to emphasize his foreknowledge of the treachery of
one of his own disciples. But I do not understand ‘_of men_’.”

As to this, I have shewn above that the word rendered by Scaurus
“betrayed,” occurs in Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant,
“He was _delivered over_ for our transgressions,” and that it is quoted
from Isaiah by Paul. I had always rendered it “delivered over.” And
now, too, it appeared to me much more likely that the Lord Jesus used
the word in that sense. If so, it would have no reference to treachery,
but would mean “delivered over by the Father.” This would explain “_of
men_,” because it would mean that the Father _in heaven_ delivers over
His Son “into the hands _of men_” _on earth_. I have heard that one of
the brethren, a learned man, explains “_of men_” as being opposed to
“of Satan,” but “men” seems to me more likely to be in antithesis to
“God.” I found afterwards that in the gospels the word “deliver over” is
regularly used about Judas Iscariot “delivering over” Jesus to the Jews.
So Scaurus may be right. But Paul’s rendering seems to me to make better
sense in Christ’s predictions.

I had been prepared by Paul and by Isaiah to recognise that Christ might
have had in view the thought that the Son was to be “delivered over”
to death by the Father for the salvation of men. Scaurus had not been
thus prepared. Otherwise I think he would have been more patient with
obscurities in Mark. Mark seemed to me to assume that his readers would
know the general drift of “the gospel” as Isaiah predicted it, as Christ
fulfilled it, and as the apostles preached it. Hence he was not so
careful as the later evangelists to make his meaning clear to those who
had no such knowledge. Take, for example, the words “If any one desires
to be first he shall be last.” “This,” said Scaurus, “might mean ‘He
shall be degraded so as to be last’.” Scaurus also attacked the saying
that whosoever receives a child in Christ’s name receives Christ, and,
“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall
surely not enter therein.” “I suppose,” said he, “this means we are to
put aside the vices of youth and manhood and to start afresh. But that is
more easily said than done. And there is nothing in Mark to shew how it
can be done.”

Here Scaurus seemed to me not to have quite done justice to Mark, because
he had not given weight to the precept at the very beginning of his
book. It was very short, and might easily have escaped me but for Paul’s
guidance. Paul, I knew, taught that Abraham was “made righteous” by
“having faith” in God’s good tidings. Hence I had noted, what Scaurus
had not noted, that _Mark, alone of the evangelists, placed the precept
“Have faith,” in the first sentence uttered by Christ, saying “Have faith
in the gospel.”_ This, then, I perceived—this “faith in the gospel” was
supposed by Mark to have power to “make men righteous.”

This seemed, from a Christian point of view, to answer Scaurus’s
objection, “‘Start afresh’ is more easily said than done.” The answer
was—not my answer, but such an answer as I thought a Christian might
make—“Yes, it is much more easily said than done. But the Son of God has
authority both to say it and to give power to do it. He says, in effect,
‘_Be thou able to start afresh_,’ and the man _is_ ‘_able to start
afresh_’.”

Then, if Scaurus replied, “Prove this,” Paul came forward saying, “I at
all events have received power to ‘start afresh.’ Even my enemies will
attest what I have been, a persecutor of the Christians. Now I have been
‘forgiven’ by Him that has authority to forgive. The old things are
passed away. Behold, they are become new.” And if Scaurus had said, “But
have others been enabled to ‘start afresh’?” Paul would have answered,
“Yes, multitudes, from the Euphrates to the Tiber. Do not trust me. Take
a little journey from Tusculum into the poorest alleys of Rome, and
judge for yourself.” Here I felt Paul would have been on such strong
ground that Scaurus would have given way. “Paul”—he might have said—“is
superstitious, and under hallucinations, but I must frankly confess he
has the power to help people to ‘start afresh’.” That is just what I,
too, felt. It was quite different from the feeling inspired in me by my
own Teacher. When Epictetus said “Let bygones be bygones,” “Let us start
afresh,” “Only begin and we shall see,” I felt, almost at once, that he
was imagining impossibilities. When Paul said “There is a new creation,”
I felt that he was describing not only a possibility but also a fact—a
fact for himself and for multitudes of others; not indeed a fact for me,
but, even for me, a possibility.

To return to Scaurus. “At last,” said he, “I came upon a definite
precept to shew how perfection could be obtained. A rich young man asks
Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus replies, ‘One thing is
lacking to thee. Go, sell thy substance, and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.’ Definite enough!
But is it consistent with morality? Is it not entirely against Paul’s
protest, ‘Though I give all my goods to the poor and have not love, I
am nothing’?” Here Scaurus did not seem to me so fair as usual. For,
knowing the gospels as well as he did, he was aware that Jesus did not
enjoin this rule on all, for example, on Zacchæus. He laid down no rules.
One man He bade go home, another He bade follow Him. Moreover Scaurus,
who accused Epictetus of borrowing from Christ, knew that Epictetus
inculcated poverty and unmarried life, not on all his disciples, but on
any Cynic wishing to go as a missionary; and therefore he ought not to
have inferred that Jesus inculcated poverty on all His disciples because
He gave it as a precept in answer to the question, “What lack I yet?”
For my part, although I was not at that time a Christian, yet when I
read Mark’s words, “Jesus, looking upon him, loved (or embraced) him
and said, _One thing is lacking to thee_”—I could understand that, for
this particular man, the “one thing lacking” really might be that he
should “sell all that he had,” and that Jesus, knowing this, gave the
precept out of His great love. Scaurus called this “a definite precept to
shew how perfection could be obtained.” But I found only Matthew saying
“If thou wouldest be perfect.” Mark and Luke did not here use the word
“perfect.”

Scaurus proceeded thus: “Little remains to be added in the way of
precepts. There is a repetition of ‘whosoever desires to be great, he
shall be your servant.’ And this is supported by the saying that ‘the Son
of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister.’ Then comes a most
startling statement, ‘All things that ye pray and ask, believe that ye
received them and they shall be unto you,’ and, ‘In the moment when ye
stand praying⸺’ but I have spoken of that above. I really do not think
that I have omitted anything of importance. Does not this amaze you?”

About the “startling statement” I will speak later on. But here I may say
that Scaurus had omitted one short precept “Have salt in yourselves.”
And this, to some extent, answered one or two of his objections. For,
as I understood it, “Have salt in yourselves” corresponded to a saying
of Epictetus, who bade us seek help from “the Logos within us.” On one
occasion (noted above) Epictetus, rebuking one of our students for
saying, “Give me some precepts to guide me,” replied, “Have you not the
Logos to guide you?” Mark appeared to me to represent Christ as saying,
“Take into your hearts the spirit of the Son, which the Son gives you.
It will be the salt of life, life for you and life passing from you to
others, purifying all your words and actions by imbuing your heart.”
Elsewhere, also, Mark represented Christ as condemning the Pharisees
(in the words of Isaiah) because, though they honoured God with their
lips, their heart was far from Him and they “taught as doctrines the
commandments of men.” Mark seemed to say “Obey the commandments of the
Logos,” not “of men.” Still, I could not but admit that this brief
metaphor, overlooked by Scaurus, might easily be overlooked or underrated
by hundreds of other readers less careful and candid; and I was forced to
sympathize—though not wholly to agree—with the outburst of disappointment
which concluded his letter. “O that my old friend Plutarch had had the
writing of the life of this Jewish prophet! Or that at least he had been
at Mark’s elbow, to check him when he began descanting on extraneous
matters and to remind him that his readers wanted to hear what he had to
say about Christ, not about John the Baptist or Herod Antipas! Many of
my friends think but poorly of Plutarch; but he would have been at all
events infinitely superior to Mark. I do not wish to be hard upon the
latter. The chariot of the gospel, so to speak, was already moving before
he was harnessed to it, and he (not being a disciple of special insight
or information) had to go the chariot’s way. Although his book hardly
ever quotes prophecy it is based on prophecy and continually alludes to
prophecy. It does not deal with Christ’s life as the ancient Jews dealt
with the lives of Moses, Samuel, and David. Though it plunges into the
midst of things like a book of the prophets—Jeremiah, for example, or
Ezekiel—it does not give the words of the prophet in full, but runs off
into all sorts of minor matters.

“You remember what Plutarch says about the importance of expression
in biography. Mark occasionally attempts to represent a sort of
expression—mostly by means of such phrases as ‘being moved with
compassion,’ ‘being grieved,’ ‘looking steadfastly at him,’ ‘turning
round,’ and so on. But the deeper sort of ‘expression,’ the prophet’s
attitude towards God and man, towards the past and the future, towards
the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men—this he does not represent.
Not at least consciously. Perhaps he does, sometimes, unconsciously,
when he preserves Christ’s darker sayings where the later writers alter
or omit them. For this, he deserves thanks. But, in spite of this,
Mark’s gospel remains, _me judice_—regard being had to the greatness
of the prophet whose life he is writing—the most inadequate of all the
biographies I know.”

So far Scaurus. But his admission that Mark “sometimes preserves Christ’s
darker sayings where the later writers alter or omit them” suggested to
me that, in summing up, he felt that he might have passed over some of
Mark’s unique traditions. And, as a fact, he had omitted “every one shall
be salted with fire,” and three passages declaring that “_all things are
possible_.” He also omitted the precept “Be at peace with one another.”
Matthew and Luke omit all these, except that Matthew once has “_all
things are possible_.”

This last tradition presents manifest difficulty. I have heard
unbelievers scoff at it and ask whether “evil things” are “possible” for
God. Moreover Scaurus himself urged on one occasion that not even God can
undo the past. Later on, when I studied the gospels with more leisure, it
seemed to me that, in saying “all things,” the Lord Jesus had constantly
in view “the things of the invisible world” or “the things pertaining to
the redemption of man.” So I found “all things” used in Paul’s epistle
to the Philippians, declaring that the Lord Jesus Christ was to “fashion
anew the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of
his glory, according to the working whereby _he is able even to subject
all things unto himself_.”

When I came to read the fourth gospel (called John’s), finding how often
it supports Mark against Luke, I looked about for this word “possible”
or “able” (for one and the same Greek adjective represents the two
meanings). But John nowhere uses it. So I thought, “This then is an
exception.” But I soon found that John expressed Mark’s saying, though
in a different way. It is in a paradox, saying that the Son is “_able to
do nothing from himself_.” This looks like a confession of _not_ “_being
able_.” But the sentence proceeds, “_unless he sees the Father doing
something_”; and, after this, “The Father loveth the Son and sheweth
him all things that He Himself is doing.” So the meaning really was,
“_The Son can do all that the Father is doing and wills the Son to do._”
John did not therefore deny the power of the Son. He asserted it. But
he disliked speaking of “power.” He avoided all words that mean “able,”
“strong,” “powerful”—meaning “might” as distinct from “right.” He prefers
“authority,” as when he says that the Son has “_authority_ to lay down
his life and to take it again.”

My conclusion was that Mark had recorded the actual words of Jesus, “all
things are possible,” assuming that his readers, being instructed in the
teaching of the apostles, would understand that the words had a spiritual
meaning, “All things are put by the Father under the feet of the Son
of man.” But sometimes, as in the Healing of the Lunatic, the meaning
might be ambiguous, or the context might not be so given as to make the
words clear. Hence Luke always omitted or altered them, as being obscure
and likely to be misunderstood. John paraphrased and explained them. If
these facts were correct, it followed that a great debt was due to Mark
for preserving the difficult truth when there must have been a great
temptation to omit it or to alter it into what was easy but not true.
Scaurus gave some weight, but hardly weight enough (I thought) to this
merit in Mark.

“And now,” continued Scaurus, “I will tell you how the vision of the City
of Truth and Justice, conjured up for me by that dear old dreamer Hermas,
vanished into thin air. I intended to have spoken first about some of the
miracles; but I will come back to them afterwards. For the present, turn
over your Mark till you come nearly to the middle, and you will find a
story about an act of healing at a distance. I have heard a Greek doctor
tell stories of a man’s being influenced by the death of a twin brother
at a distance. He invented the word _telepatheia_ to express it. Well,
I will invent an analogous word for healing at a distance—_teliatreia_.
However, it is not from the miraculous point of view that I wish to
discuss the story, but simply as a question of morality.

“It contains these words, ‘It is not fit to take the children’s bread
and to cast it unto the dogs.’ Who says this? Jesus. To whom? To a poor
woman, called ‘Greek, Syrophœnician by extraction.’ What is her offence?
She has been asking Jesus to cast an evil spirit out of her daughter.
Now what do you think of that? The Greeks, of old, affected to call all
non-Greeks barbarians. But would their philosophers, would Socrates, or
gruff Diogenes, or any respectable Greek philosopher, say such a thing
to any non-Greek woman? I admit that Jesus ultimately granted this
poor creature’s request. But that was only because she answered with
the tact and patience of a Penelope, acquiescing in the epithet ‘dogs’
and replying, ‘Yea, Lord, yet even the dogs beneath the table eat of
the crumbs of the children.’ Had it not been for her almost superhuman
gentleness, she would have retired rejected, gaining from her petition
nothing but the reproach of ‘dog.’ I write bitterly. I confess I felt
bitter when I saw so noble and sublime a character as that of this
Jewish prophet apparently degraded and polluted by an indelible taint of
national uncharitableness.”

I was beginning to investigate the passage, when my eyes fell on a note
that Scaurus had appended at the bottom of the column. “Since writing
this, I have looked into the passage again, to see whether I could have
been misled. And I notice that Luke omits the whole narrative. Also,
while Mark represents the _woman_ as coming to Jesus and ‘asking him’ to
heal the child, Matthew represents the _disciples_ as coming to Jesus
and ‘asking him’ to send her away. I should like to be able to believe
that the woman was really a Jewess turned Gentile, that the disciples
tried to drive the woman away, calling themselves ‘the children’ and her
‘the dog,’ that Jesus replied, as in Matthew, ‘It was precisely these
lost degraded ones that I was sent to restore.’ In order to obtain this
meaning, the changes of the text would not be very great. But I fear this
cannot be maintained.”

I caught at Scaurus’s explanation, and was sorry that he himself did not
hold to it. For I was more troubled by this objection of his than by
anything else that he had said; and I thought long over it. Finally, I
came to the conclusion that Scaurus was nearly right; that this woman,
though called “a Syrophœnician by extraction,” was a Jewess (as Barnabas
the Jew is called “a Cyprian by extraction”) and that she had fallen away
into Greek idolatry and an evil life, so that Jesus—being, like Paul, all
things to all men and women—was on this one occasion cruel in word in
order to be kind in deed, stimulating her to better things. This agreed
with Paul’s use of the word “dogs,” which assuredly he would not have
applied except to “evil-doers.” If, however, it should be demonstrated
that the woman was not a Jewess, and not leading an impure life, and that
Jesus (not the disciples) used these words to her, then I should still
believe in the kindness of Jesus, although these words were apparently
unkind. No one would suspect cruelty, in a man habitually kind, except
on very strong evidence. Here the evidence was not strong. The witnesses
were two, not three; and the two narratives disagreed in important
details. This was the conclusion to which I then came.

If Scaurus had read the epistles before the gospels, approaching the
latter with some feeling of Christ’s constraining “love,” he could
hardly have stumbled (so I thought and so I think still) at this single
narrative. Jesus did not call the centurion a “dog.” Jesus had also
supported the law of kindness against the law of the sabbath. He had said
that “that which goes into the mouth” does not defile a man. He had eaten
and drunk with publicans and sinners. How was it possible that a prophet
of such broad and lofty views as these could call a poor afflicted woman
a “dog” simply because she was not a Jewess? I longed to be near my old
friend and to appeal to his common sense and justice, and I felt sure
that I should have convinced him. Even if Jesus bade the missionaries at
first go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” that seemed to
me quite consistent with a purpose that in the end the gospel should be
proclaimed to all nations.

In another narrative, which had caused me difficulty of the same kind,
Scaurus gave me help. It is not in Mark. But I will set it down here
because it bears on kindness. Matthew and Luke represented a disciple as
asking to be allowed, before following Christ, to “bury” his father, and
as not being allowed. “As to this,” said Scaurus, “I have no doubt that
the man meant, ‘Suffer me to wait at home till I have seen my aged father
into the grave and have duly buried him.’ Similarly Esau says, in effect,
‘My father will die before long. I will wait till I have mourned for him
before killing Jacob.’ So, in Latin, we say ‘I have buried them all,’
meaning ‘I have survived and buried all my relations.’ My rabbi confirms
me in this view. Christ always defends nature and natural affection
against man’s conventions, so that it seems to me absurd to suppose that
he would enjoin anything really inhuman.”

Scaurus next proceeded to attack the miraculous part of Mark’s narrative.
Mark, he said, considering the smallness of his gospel, describes many
more miracles, relatively, than Matthew and Luke. “As to miracles,” said
he, “I am ready to believe in anything, miraculous or non-miraculous, on
sufficient evidence. But the evidence about Mark’s miracles leads me to
two conclusions. Some of them occurred but were not miraculous. The rest,
although they were honestly supposed to have occurred, did not occur.

“Let us take the first class first. Mark calls them ‘powers,’ _i.e._
works of power. That is a good name for them. But Mark seems to think
that, if a man has ‘power’ to cast out demons and perform cures without
medical means, such a one must be a great prophet or even a Son of God.
To that I demur. I remember, when I was in Dacia, one of my men was down
with fever, and bad fever, too. But when the bugles sounded out one
night, and the enemy came on, beating in our outposts and pouring into
our camp on the backs of some of our cowardly rascals, this brave fellow
was up and doing, without helmet or armour, in the front with the best of
them. Next morning, he was none the worse. Nor was there any relapse. He
was quite cured. I think I have told you how Josephus described to me the
casting out of a demon in the presence of Vespasian. And I might remind
you of Tacitus’s story about the cure of a blind man by the same emperor.
I suspect, however, that the former was a mere conjuring trick and that
the latter was got up by the priests of—Serapis, I think it was. So I
lay no stress on either. But I have spoken to many sensible physicians,
who tell me that paralysis and some kinds of fever can be cured by what
they call an emotional shock. Often the cure does not last. Some of these
physicians go a little further and ascribe to certain persons a peculiar
power of quieting restless patients and pacifying or even healing the
insane. But I entirely refuse to believe that, if a man has such a power,
he can consequently claim to be a Son of God.”

About the objection thus raised by Scaurus I have said enough already.
It seemed to me that the power of permanently healing the paralysed, and
permanently pacifying and healing the insane, was quite different from
that of startling a paralysed man into a temporary activity. The former
appeared to me allied with moral power and with steadfastness of mind,
and likely to be an attribute of the Son of God. Still I was sorry that
Mark devoted so much space to it. Here I agreed, in part, with Scaurus.

He then passed to the second class of miracles, “those that were honestly
supposed to have occurred, but did not occur.” “If,” said he, “I assert
that Mark turned metaphorical traditions into literal prose, you must not
suppose that I accuse him of dishonesty. All the ancient Jews did it.
Look at the story of Joshua, describing how he stopped the sun. Perhaps
also you have read how God caused a stream to spring up from the Ass’s
Jawbone (originally a hill of that name, like the headland or peninsula
called _Ass’s Jawbone_ in Laconia, which you and I passed together some
five or six years ago). The second (the jawbone miracle) is somewhat
different in origin from the first (the sun miracle). There are many
shades of verbal misunderstanding capable of converting non-fact into
alleged fact. There was all the more excuse for this error in Christian
Jews (such as Mark and others) because of two reasons. In the first
place, the prophets had predicted that all manner of disease (blindness,
deafness, lameness) would be cured in the days of the Messiah (using
even such expressions as ‘thy dead men shall awake’). In the second
place, Christ did actually—as I have admitted—cure some diseases, such
as insanity, fever, and paralysis. How, then, could it be other than a
difficult task, in such circumstances, to distinguish the literal from
the metaphorical traditions about the cures effected by Christ?”

I could all the less deny the force of these remarks because I had been
studying the words, “Whatsoever things ye ask, praying, believe that ye
have received them and they shall be unto you.” These words, if applied
literally—to bread, for example, or money—were manifestly not true.
Indeed they were absurd. How could a man honestly believe that he had
received a thousand sesterces in the act of praying for them? But if
applied spiritually, as in Paul’s prayer concerning the thorn in the
flesh, they might (I felt) be true for one endowed with great faith. Paul
prayed that the “thorn” might “depart” from him. In one sense it did not
depart. But in another sense, it did depart because God so increased his
strength that the “thorn” became as nothing.

Now in this same passage of Mark I found the following: “Whosoever shall
say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted and thrown into the sea,’ and shall not
doubt in his heart but believes in that very moment that what he says is
happening, it shall be unto him.” Luke also elsewhere had, “If ye have
faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye would say to this sycamine-tree,
‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would have obeyed you.”
I took for granted that “mountain,” “mustard-seed,” and “sycamine-tree,”
must all have been metaphorically used.

Scaurus confirmed this view, saying that the Jews were in the habit of
calling a learned interpreter of the Law an uprooter of mountains, _i.e._
of spiritual obstacles blocking the path of the students of the law. But
then he added something that amazed me, “Matthew has, ‘If ye have faith,
and doubt not, ye shall not only do the deed of the fig-tree, but even
if ye say to this mountain, Be lifted and thrown into the sea, it shall
come to pass.’ Now, ‘mountain’ being metaphorical, you might naturally
anticipate that Matthew intended ‘fig-tree’ to be metaphorical. But if
you look back a little, you will find that _Matthew actually imagines
that there was a literal fig-tree in question_. So does Mark. He and
Matthew turn the metaphor into a literal miracle, as follows.

“In the first place, Jesus comes to a literal fig-tree, seeking literal
fruit. He finds none. Consequently, say Mark and Matthew, a curse of
barrenness was pronounced on it by Jesus. What followed? The tree was at
once ‘dried up,’ or (according to Mark) ‘dried up from the roots.’ Now
first note that the Hebrew word that means ‘barren’ means also ‘_root
up_,’ ‘_cut off_,’ or ‘_cut down_.’ Then pass to Luke. He omits the
whole of this _miracle_ about a fig-tree. But he has a _parable_ about a
fig-tree. The Lord of a vineyard comes to a barren fig-tree, and gives
orders that it shall be ‘_cut down_.’ The vinedresser intercedes for it
that it may be spared for one year more in case it may bear fruit.”

I looked and found that the story in Mark and Matthew was as Scaurus
had described it. But another detail astonished me. It was a phrase
that followed the words, “While they were passing by early in the
morning”—_i.e._ the morning after the curse had been pronounced—“they
saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots.” Instead of writing that they
were all amazed at the speed with which the curse had been fulfilled,
Mark wrote, “And _Peter, remembering it_, says to him, ‘Rabbi, behold,
the fig-tree that thou cursedst is withered up’.” Trying to put myself in
the place of Peter, I asked, “What should I have done when I approached
the spot? How could I fail to be on the alert to note the tree that my
Master cursed yesterday? How could any of my companions fail? How was it
possible that any of us could forget? How could I possibly talk about
‘_remembering_’ it? How, therefore, could a historian suppose it needful
to insert that I, or any of us, ‘_remembered_’?”

Turning to Matthew, I found that he got rid of “remembering,” and of
“Peter” too, by making the miracle occur instantaneously, thus, “He
said unto it [_i.e._ to the tree], ‘Let there be no fruit from thee
henceforward for ever.’ And immediately the fig-tree withered away. And
when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, ‘How did the fig-tree
immediately wither away’?”

Scaurus explained the whole matter as follows: “Look at Ezekiel’s
saying, ‘I the Lord have _dried up the green tree_,’ and its context.
You will find that ‘_the green tree_’ is Tyre. Elsewhere Luke has a
proverb about ‘the green tree and the dry,’ where ‘the dry’ refers to
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. So here, the fig-tree, green
but barren, is Jerusalem. Luke has given the parable correctly. The Lord
of the vineyard, he says, comes to a fig-tree, _i.e._ Jerusalem, in the
vineyard, that is, in Judah. He does not say that it is green, but we
may imagine that. However, it has no fruit. ‘Let it be cut down,’ says
the Lord. Well, I have shewn you that ‘Let it be _cut down_’ might mean,
in Hebrew, ‘Let it be _barren_ so that none may eat fruit from it,’ or
‘Let it be _dried up_.’ As a historical fact, the fig-tree was _cut
down_, or _dried up_, when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. But that
was not immediate. It was long after the resurrection. _When Jerusalem
was destroyed_, the disciples _remembered_”—this explained my difficulty
above mentioned—“that the Lord had pronounced this curse on Jerusalem. I
could shew you, if space allowed, that the name ‘Peter’ (which would be
in Hebrew ‘Simon’) might be confused (in Hebrew) with our Latin phrase
‘qui cum eo erant’ meaning ‘those that were with him,’ _i.e._ Christ’s
disciples, and also that Mark’s phrase ‘passing by _early_’ may be
an error for ‘passing along to _inspect_, _visit_, or _seek_ fruit.’
Having regard to the fact that Peter died a year or two before the city
was destroyed, I am inclined to think that it was ‘the disciples,’ not
‘Peter,’ that ‘remembered.’ But there is no space for details. It must
suffice to have shewn you how a _parable_ of Jesus, about _cutting down_
a fig-tree, ‘_remembered_’ by his disciples long afterwards as referring
to Jerusalem, has been converted by Mark and Matthew into a portentous
miracle about _withering_ a fig-tree instantaneously (according to
Matthew) or by the following morning (according to Mark).”

This explanation of “_remembering_” seemed exactly to meet my difficulty.
I accepted it at once. Subsequently I found that the fourth gospel twice
represents the disciples as “_remembering_,” after Christ’s resurrection,
things that He had said or done before the resurrection, which things, at
the time, they had not fully understood. Moreover that gospel declared
that, up to the evening before Christ’s crucifixion, His words had been
“dark sayings” to them, but that the Spirit would “call them back to
their minds,” or “remind them” of their meaning. This confirmed me in
the conclusion that the Withering of the Fig-Tree was a parable, not a
history, and that the disciples “_remembered_” it, and were reminded of
its meaning by the Holy Spirit, after the Lord had risen from the dead.

Scaurus added a reference to a lecture of Epictetus, which, he said, I
must have heard, and which bore on the story of the fig-tree. I had heard
it and remembered it well. The subject was, in effect, “The Precocious
Philosopher.” Epictetus likened him to a precocious fruit-tree. “You have
flowered too soon,” he said; “The winter will scorch you up, or rather
you are already frostbitten. Let me alone! Why do you wish me, before
my season”—he meant, blooming before the seasonable preparation—“to be
withered away as you are withered yourself?” This, Scaurus said, was
perhaps borrowed from Mark. I examined the text of the lecture, and it
seemed to me that his conjecture was by no means improbable.

Scaurus proceeded, “I could go through Mark’s other miracles in the same
way—those I mean that are not acts of healing—and shew you that they are
all metaphors misunderstood. But I have given too much space to these
unimportant matters. At least I consider them unimportant except so far
as they shew Mark to be historically untrustworthy. Now I must pass to
more important things, merely adding—as an instance of this man’s curious
want of all sense of proportion—that while giving—how often must I repeat
this!—a whole column to Herod Antipas’s birthday and its consequences,
he does not give one line, or one word, to Christ’s resurrection—except
in predictions made by Christ himself or in statements made by angels.
I am not a Christian, nor a half-way Christian. But I have an immense
admiration for Christ and an immense curiosity to know the exact facts
about his life, death, and subsequent influence on his disciples. To
me therefore, simply as a historian—or as a mere man interested in the
affairs of men—this absolute silence about that which should have been
most fully stated and supported by the evidence of eyewitnesses, is
nothing short of provoking. Will you not agree with me, after this, that
Mark is the most inadequate of biographers?”

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read this. “Scaurus,” I said,
“must for once have made a mistake, or his copy of Mark must have been
defective.” But my copy confirmed his. It ended with the words, “For
they were afraid.” This was too much for me. Perhaps I was overwrought
with long and close study and with the strain of attempting to grapple
with Scaurus’s criticisms. I remember to this day—and not with entire
self-condemnation, for it was Mark, not Mark’s subject, that disappointed
me—that in a sudden storm of passion I threw the gospel down and vowed I
would never look at it again.

On the following morning my indignation against Mark began to seem
certainly hasty and possibly unjust. True, his book was apparently
without beginning or end, disfigured by superfluities and omissions, and
extraordinarily disproportioned. But what if he had no time to revise
it? What if it was a collection of notes about Christ’s mighty works and
short sayings, which he was intending to combine with a collection of
Christ’s doctrine when he died—died perhaps suddenly, perhaps was put
to death? I tried to find excuses for his work. Still, I could not deny
that, if Scaurus was right as to the story of the fig-tree, the earliest
of the evangelists shewed a deplorable inability to distinguish the
things that preceded Christ’s resurrection from the things that followed
it. I resolved, however, that this should not deter me from continuing
my study of the other gospels. My disappointment with Mark increased
my admiration—it was not then more than admiration—for Christ, whom he
seemed to me to have failed to represent. “Perhaps,” said I, “Matthew and
Luke will do more justice to the subject.” So I took up their gospels.
The resurrection was what I most wanted to read about. But I decided to
begin at the beginning.

“In style, proportion, arrangement, and subject-matter,” said Scaurus,
“Matthew and Luke are much more satisfactory than Mark, although
Mark often preserves the earliest and purest form of Christ’s short
sayings. When I say ‘Matthew,’ you must understand that I do not know
who he is. I am convinced that Matthew the publican, one of Christ’s
twelve apostles, is not responsible for the work called by his name.
Flaccus—whom I more than suspect of Christian proclivities—knows a good
deal about these matters. Well, according to Flaccus, ‘Matthew’ wrote
in Hebrew. ‘Everyone agrees about it,’ he says. An early Hebrew gospel
would naturally be attributed to Matthew. He, being a ‘publican,’ or
tax-collector, would necessarily be able to write. Peter and John are
said to have been ignorant of letters. There are more styles than one
in Matthew—a fact that suggests compilation. Luke, an educated man, and
perhaps identical with a ‘beloved physician’ mentioned in one of Paul’s
epistles, certainly compiled his books from various sources; ‘Matthew’
almost certainly did the same. Later on, I will speak of their versions
of Christ’s discourses. Now I must confine myself to their accounts of a
very important subject—Christ’s supernatural birth.”

Up to this point I had been reading with little interest, doubting
whether it would not be better to pass on to the accounts of the
resurrection. As I have explained above, my study of Paul’s epistles
had not led me to believe that there would be anything miraculous about
the birth of Christ. The phrase “supernatural birth,” therefore, came
on me quite unexpectedly. What followed, riveted my attention: “Mark,
as you know, says nothing about Christ’s parentage. First he gives, as
title, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ’—where, by the way,
old Hermas has written, in my margin, ‘some add, _Son of God_.’ Then
there is a Voice from heaven, at the moment of Christ’s baptism, heard
(apparently) only by John the Baptist and Jesus, ‘Thou art my beloved
Son.’ A similar Voice occurs later on. Mark represents a blind man as
calling Jesus ‘son of David,’ and his fellow-townsmen say, ‘Is not this
the carpenter, the son of Mary?’ This might indicate merely that Joseph
the carpenter was dead. But ‘Son of Mary’ might be used in two other
ways. The enemies of Jesus might use it to suggest that he was a bastard.
The worshippers of Jesus might use it (later on) to shew that he was a
Son of God, not born of any human father. Matthew has, ‘Is not this the
carpenter’s son?’ This, however, Matthew might write not as his own
belief, but as that of Christ’s fellow-townsmen. Luke, who has ‘Is not
this Joseph’s son?’, gives the whole of the narrative quite differently.
I should add that the first Voice from heaven is differently given in
some copies of Luke.” I examined this at once. My copy had a marginal
note, “Some have, _Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee_.”

“You see,” said Scaurus, “in these early divergences, traces of early
differences as to the time and manner in which Jesus became the Son of
God. Paul appears to me to have believed that the sonship pre-existed
in heaven. ‘God,’ he says, ‘in the fulness of time, sent forth His son,
born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those that
were under the law.’ In Job, ‘born of a woman’ implies imperfection, or
mortality. In Paul, ‘born of a woman’ and ‘born under the law’ imply two
self-humiliations undergone by the Son of God. Paul’s view is that the
Redeemer must needs make himself one with those whom he redeems. Since
the Jews were not only ‘born of a woman’ but also ‘born under the law,’
the Son of God came down from heaven and placed himself under both these
humiliations. Paul, therefore, seems to have regarded the divine birth
as taking place in heaven from the beginning, but the human birth as a
self-humbling on earth, wherein the Son of God becomes incarnate in the
form of the son of Joseph, of the seed of David, after the flesh.”

This had been my inference from Paul’s epistles, as I have said above.
But what followed was quite new to me: “You are aware from Paul’s
epistles that Christ is regarded by him as preeminently the Seed of
Promise, Isaac being merely the type. Well, listen to what Philo, a Jew,
somewhat earlier than Paul, declares about the birth of Isaac. Philo
says, ‘The Lord begot Isaac.’ Philo describes Sarah as ‘becoming pregnant
when alone and visited by God.’ It was God also, he says, who ‘opened the
womb of Leah.’ Moses, too, ‘having received Zipporah, finds her pregnant
by no mortal.’ All this is, of course, quite distinct from our popular
stories of the love affairs of Jupiter. You may see this from Philo’s
context: ‘It is fitting that God should converse, in an opposite manner
to that of men, with a nature undefiled, unpolluted, and pure, the
genuine Virgin. For whereas the cohabitation of men makes virgins wives
(lit. women), on the other hand when God begins to associate with a soul,
what was wife before He now makes Virgin again.’ I could quote other
instances, but these will suffice. Now I ask you to reflect how such
language as this would be interpreted in the west, not only by slaves,
but even by people of education, unaccustomed to the language of the
east, but familiar with our western stories of the births of Hercules,
Castor and Pollux, Bacchus and others.”

I saw at once that the language would be liable to be taken literally.
But on the other hand it seemed to me that no disciple of Paul could
accept anything like our western stories. Scaurus had anticipated an
objection of this kind in his next words: “You must not suppose, however,
that Hebrew literature contains, or that Jewish or Christian thought
would tolerate, such stories as those in Ovid. Nor will you find anything
of this kind in Matthew and Luke, to whose narratives we will now pass.
Matthew says, rather abruptly, that Joseph, finding Mary, his betrothed
but not yet his wife, to be with child, and intending to put her away
secretly, received a vision of an angel and a voice bidding him not to
fear to take to himself Mary his wife, for she was with child from the
Holy Spirit, and ‘she will bring forth a child and thou shalt call his
name Jesus.’ Luke, after a much longer introduction (about which I shall
speak presently), says that a vision and a voice came to Mary—he does not
mention one to Joseph—bidding her not to fear, and saying ‘Thou shalt
conceive and bring forth a child, and shalt call his name Jesus.’ In
theory, it is of course possible that two similar visions might come, one
to Mary and another to Joseph, bidding both ‘not to fear.’ But Matthew
adds something that points to an entirely different explanation: ‘Now all
this hath come to pass that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
Lord through the prophet, saying, _Behold the virgin shall be with child
and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel_’.”

These words I had myself read in Isaiah and had taken as referring to a
promise made in the context, namely, that in a short time—two or three
years, just time enough for a child to be conceived and to be born and
to grow up to the age when it could say “father” and “mother”—the kings
of Syria and Samaria would be destroyed. Accordingly Isaiah says that
he himself married a wife immediately afterwards and that the prophecy
was fulfilled. Having recently read these words more than once, I was
prepared to find that Scaurus interpreted them in the same way. He added
that the most learned of the Jews themselves did the same, and that the
Hebrew does not mention “virgin,” but “young woman.” “This,” said he, “I
heard from a learned rabbi, who added, ‘The LXX is full of blunders, but
we are hoping for a more faithful rendering, from a very learned scholar
named Aquila, which will probably appear soon’.” Here I may say that this
translation has actually appeared—it came out about ten years ago—in
quite unreadable Greek, but very faithful to the Hebrew; and it renders
the word, not “virgin,” but “young woman,” as Scaurus had said.

It was this very rendering that caused a coolness between me and Justin
of Samaria. It happened, I am sorry to say, shortly before he suffered
for the sake of the Saviour, in this present year in which I am writing.
I chanced to meet him coming out of the school of Diodorus, in his
philosopher’s cloak as usual, but hot and flustered, not looking at
all like a philosopher. Some people—Jews, to judge by their faces—were
jeering and pointing after him in mockery. Justin—furious with them,
but also (as I thought) worried and uncomfortable in himself—appealed
to me: “I have been contending for the Lord,” said he, “against these
dogs. They flout and mock me for demonstrating how fraudulently and
profanely they have mutilated the Holy Scriptures, cancelling some parts
and altering others, when translating them into Greek.” Then he instanced
this very passage, in which he said the Jews had vilely corrupted the
rendering of the Hebrew from “virgin” to “young woman.” I would have kept
silence; but, as he pressed me to say whether I did not agree with him,
I was obliged to reply that I did not; and I added that not only Aquila
rendered it thus, but other good scholars, many of them Christians. Upon
this, he flung away from me in disgust, without one word of salutation,
and I never saw him again.

The fact was, he had committed himself in writing, about ten years
before, to this false charge against the Jews, and to many other baseless
accusations. There was no way out of it now, but either to retract or to
face it out. He was a brave man and knew how to face death. But he was
not brave enough to allow himself to be conquered by facts. Samaritan by
birth, he had something of the Samaritan—but not of the Good Samaritan—in
his hatred of the Jews. Had he loved the truth as much as he hated those
whom he called truth’s enemies, he would perhaps have gone on to cease
from his hate, and would have become no less faithful as a Christian than
as a martyr.

Now I must return to Scaurus. “Luke,” said he, “was an educated man,
and saw at once that this prophecy about ‘the virgin’ did not apply. So
he omitted it. This he had a right to do. It was only an evangelist’s
opinion, not a statement of anything that had actually occurred. But
there remained the tradition of _fact_, namely, that an angel had
appeared and had announced the future birth of a child begotten from
the Holy Spirit. Luke regarded this announcement as made to the mother,
like the announcements—not the same of course, but similar—made to
Sarah, Rebecca, and the mothers of Samson and Samuel. Moreover in
Matthew’s account—as I judge from Hermas’s marginal notes—there are many
variations, some of which leave it open to believe that the utterance
to Joseph (like that to Abraham before Isaac’s birth) referred merely
to God’s spiritual generating, so that Jesus, though the Son of God
according to the spirit, was yet, according to the flesh, the son of
David by descent from Joseph. Luke expresses his disagreement from
this view by giving various utterances of Mary and the angel at such
length that they may be called hymns or poems. And indeed—if judged
liberally and not by the pedantical rules of Atticists or over-strict
grammarians—they are poems, by no means without beauty.

“Luke adds another narrative in which he makes the birth of John the
Baptist serve as a foil (so to speak) to the birth of Christ. John,
like Christ, was born as a child of promise, after a vision of an angel.
But there the likeness ceases. The vision is to the father, not to the
mother. The father disbelieves and is punished by dumbness. Elizabeth,
the mother, was not a virgin. She, like the wife of Abraham, was barren
up to old age. There is no vision to Elizabeth, and no mention of divine
generation. If a Jew, Philo for example, were to say to Luke, ‘Your
Messiah may have been a son of God and yet son of Joseph (as Isaac was
son of Abraham)’ Luke might reply, ‘Read my book, and you will see that
it was not so. John the Baptist might be called son of God after this
fashion, but Jesus was born in quite a different manner’.”

After this, Scaurus went on to treat of Christ’s pedigrees, as given by
Matthew and Luke, shewing Christ’s descent, the former from Abraham, the
latter from Adam. These details I shall not give in full. Scaurus had
something of the mind of a lawyer and something of the eagerness of a
hound hunting by scent, and, as he said himself, when once on a trail
he could not stop. “Matthew,” said he, “omits three consecutive kings
of Judah in one place and a fourth in another. I pointed this out to
my old rabbi above-mentioned, and he laughed and said, ‘My own people
do that sort of thing. History is not our strong point. We like facts
to fit nicely, and this writer of yours has made them fit. Does he not
himself almost tell you that he is squaring matters, when he says that
there are fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen from
David to the captivity, and fourteen from the captivity to Christ? This
is symmetrical, but it is not what your model Thucydides would call
history.’ My rabbi went on to say, ‘A more serious blunder, from our
point of view, is that this Christian has included in the ancestry of his
Christ a king called Jeconiah about whom one of our prophets, Jeremiah,
says, “Write ye this man childless, for no man of his seed shall prosper,
sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah”.’ Then,
seeing the two papyri lying side by side on the table before me, he
added, ‘I see you have another pedigree there, does that make the
same blunder?’ ‘No,’ said I, ‘the author was named Luke, a physician,
an educated man and a great compiler of documents. He gives quite a
different pedigree.’ ‘I am not surprised,’ said my rabbi. ‘If he was a
sensible man, he could hardly do otherwise’.”

So far Scaurus. He did not anticipate what I have lived to experience.
Quite recently I heard some Christians use this very mention of Jeconiah
in an opposite direction, namely, as a proof that Matthew believed Jesus
to have descended from God, but _not_ from Joseph after the flesh. In
particular, I have heard a young but rising teacher, Irenæus by name,
argue as follows, “If indeed He had been the son of Joseph, He could
not, according to Jeremiah, be either king or heir, for Joseph is shewn
to be the son of Joachim and Jeconiah as also Matthew sets forth in his
pedigree.” Then he went on to quote Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jeconiah
should be childless and have no successor on the throne of David. And
his argument was to this effect, “Christ is the royal son of David.
Therefore He could not have descended from Jeconiah, Joseph’s ancestor.
Matthew knew this. Therefore Matthew, though giving Joseph’s pedigree,
did not mean to imply that Jesus was the son of Joseph.” And this seemed
to convince those who heard him! I also heard this same Irenæus, in the
same lecture, say, “If He were the son of Joseph, how could He be greater
than Solomon, … or greater than David, when He was generated from the
same seed, and was a descendant of these men?” After we had gone out
from Irenæus’s lecture, I asked the friend sitting next to me to explain
this argument to me; for it seemed to me to prove that a man could not
be greater than his ancestors. “Ah, but you forget,” he replied, “_what_
ancestors. They were _royal_ ancestors. How could the son of a mere
carpenter be greater than David or Solomon?” It seemed to me that the
sinless son of “a mere carpenter” might be greater in the eyes of God
than a whole world of such royal sinners. But I found it hard to convince
him that I was even speaking seriously!

To return to Scaurus. He dealt next with the pedigree in Luke. “You might
have supposed in these circumstances,” said he, “that Luke would drop
the pedigree of Joseph altogether, and give only that of Mary. Well,
he has not done this. Another course would have been to state clearly
that Jesus was not really, but only putatively, the son of Joseph (being
really the son of God) and to add that he gave the pedigree of Joseph, as
Matthew gives it, because Joseph was the putative father. Well, he has
not quite done this either; but he has done half of it. He has written
‘being the son, as was supposed, of Joseph.’ But he has also given a
pedigree of Joseph differing from that of Matthew in that portion which
extends from Joseph to David. What do you think of this?”

I thought that the whole thing was a cobweb and wished Scaurus would pass
to something more interesting. But he continued, “My rabbi suggested
that Luke had invented a new genealogy. But when I dissented—for I am
convinced that neither Luke nor Matthew invented, and that these early
writers generally were very simple honest souls—he asked me whether I
knew of any instance in the gospels where the name spelt in Greek _Eli_
or _Heli_ was misunderstood. I replied that there was one instance where
Jesus used it to mean _my God_, but the bystanders took it to mean
_Elias_. ‘Well then,’ said the rabbi, ‘I should not be surprised if your
honest compiler Luke, a learned man perhaps in Greek, but innocent of
Hebrew, had got hold of some tradition saying, _Jesus was supposed to be
the son of Joseph, being the son of God_. Though in Hebrew there is a
difference between the spelling of _El_, God, and the name _Eli_, there
is not much difference in Greek. And Luke, having once started on the
scent of a new pedigree supposed to connect Jesus with _Heli_, ransacked
various Jewish genealogies till he found one containing the name, and
adopted it as a substitute for Matthew’s.’ This was what my rabbi
suggested. All I can say is that it seems to me more probable than that
Luke invented the genealogy.”

Scaurus entered into further details to vindicate Luke’s honesty,
concluding as follows, “My own belief is that the parents of John and of
Jesus were good, pure, simple, noble-minded people, liable to dreams and
to the seeing of visions and to the hearing of voices. As to ‘dreams,’
by the way, look at the earliest account of the Lord’s appearing to
Solomon, ‘In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon _in a dream … Solomon
awoke, and behold it was a dream_.’ Then look at the later account in
Chronicles, ‘_In that night did God appear unto Solomon_.’ No ‘dream’ and
no ‘awaking’! _Verbum sapienti!_ The facts above alleged—to which I could
add—when combined with the influence of prophecy—seem to me to explain
everything in Matthew’s and Luke’s Introductions as being at once morally
truthful and historically untrue.”

Later on, Scaurus said, “Luke himself in his story of Christ’s childhood,
does not seem to me to be so consistent as an educated writer would have
been if he had been dishonestly inventing. For he represents Mary as
saying to her son, ‘Behold, thy father and I seek thee sorrowing.’ By
‘thy father’ she means Joseph. But could she have used this language, or
felt this sorrow, if she had realised indeed that her son was not one of
the many children of the Father of Gods and men, but that he was unique,
God incarnate? This and many other points convince me that Luke (in his
account of the birth) is not composing fiction, but only compiling,
harmonizing, adapting, and moulding into a historical shape, what should
have been preserved as poetic legend.”

Scaurus then gave one more detail from Mark, “who,” said he, “meagre
though he is, often records actual history where later accounts disguise
it. Mark says that, when Jesus was preaching the gospel, his own family
(literally ‘_those from him_,’ that is, ‘_those of his household_’) ‘came
to lay hands on him; for they said, _He is beside himself_.’ Matthew and
Luke omit this. But Matthew and Luke agree with Mark when the latter
goes on to describe how the mother of Jesus and his brethren come to the
place where he is preaching. Not being able to reach him through the
crowd, they send word that they desire to speak to him. Jesus does not go
out nor stop his preaching. Those who obeyed the gospel, he said, were
his mother and his brethren. I have said that Matthew and Luke omit the
attempt of Christ’s family to stop him from preaching as being out of
his mind. Probably variations in the text enabled them honestly to omit
it, believing it to be erroneous. And indeed how could they believe
otherwise? How could Matthew and Luke believe that Mary would accompany
the brethren of Jesus in an attempt to ‘lay hands’ on him after recording
what they have previously recorded about the supernatural birth? Lay
hands on her divine Son, the Son of God, engaged in proclaiming the will
of his Father in heaven! The story might well seem to them incredible.
But it bears the plain stamp of genuine truth.”

Scaurus then pointed out the divergence between Matthew and Luke as to
the manner in which Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem. This I omit.
But in the course of it he shewed me how Matthew has been influenced
by prophecies applied by the Christian Jews to Christ, as being their
Deliverer from Captivity, and their Comforter in time of trouble. “For
example,” said he, “since ‘_Egypt_’ in Hebrew poetry is often synonymous
with ‘_bondage_,’ the Christian Jews might naturally praise God in their
songs and hymns for fulfilling, through Christ, the prophecy, ‘Out of
Egypt have I called my son,’ i.e. Israel, meaning that God had called
them, the new Israel, out of ‘_bondage_’ (as Paul often says) into the
liberty of the children of God. But Matthew takes this as meaning that,
when Christ was a little child, he was literally ‘_called out of Egypt_.’
Hence he is driven to infer that he must have been taken to Egypt. For
such a journey he finds a reason by supposing that it was to escape
from the sword of Herod. He fits in this story with another prophecy
representing Rachel as weeping for her children, and as being consoled
by the Lord. Hence Matthew infers a massacre of children by Herod in
Bethlehem, corresponding, on a small scale, to the wholesale destruction
from which the infant Moses escaped. But such a massacre is not mentioned
by any evangelist, or by Josephus, or by any other historian or writer
known to me.”

I was depressed by this, and eager to pass on to something more
satisfactory. So was Scaurus. “I have no desire,” he said, “to dwell on
these points. I am interested in the biographies of all great teachers,
philosophers, and lawgivers, as well as conquerors—_so far as they are
true_. Untruth gives me no pleasure, but disappointment—unmixed except
for the slight pleasure one may find in tracking an error to its hole and
killing it.

“With much greater pleasure shall I turn to Matthew’s and Luke’s
accounts of the words and deeds of Christ. Only I will add that, were I
a Christian, I should long for a new gospel that would go back to facts,
rejecting these additions of Matthew and Luke. Not that I would go back
to Mark. By ‘_facts_,’ I do not mean such facts as John the Baptist’s
diet of locusts and clothing of camel’s hair. But surely a genuine
worshipper of Christ—I can conceive such a thing; for after all, what
is more worthy of worship on earth, next to God Himself, than ‘the man
that is as righteous as possible,’ concerning whom Socrates says that
there is ‘nothing more like God’?—I say a genuine Christian, if he were
also a philosopher, might surely find it possible to state in a few
simple words his conviction that, whereas John the son of Zachariah was
sent by the Logos, and contained only a portion of the Logos, Jesus the
son of Joseph was actually the Logos incarnate. I wholly reject such a
notion myself, partly because I am not sure that I believe that there is
any divine Logos at all—having, in fact, given up speculating on these
matters. But if I were as sure on that point as your Epictetus is, and if
I were a Christian to boot, I am not sure that I should have any great
difficulty in believing that some one man might exist—might be ‘sent into
the world,’ I suppose, a Christian would say—as different from ordinary
possessors of the Logos as steam is from water—after all, steam is
water—superior to Numa the Roman, superior to Lycurgus the Spartan, to
Solon the Athenian, yes, superior to Moses the Hebrew.

“You will be disposed to smile at my ‘Moses,’ as an anticlimax. But
let me tell you that this Moses was a very great man. He was a genuine
maker of a republic. I don’t mention your friend’s ideal, Diogenes, for
I don’t regard him as a maker of anything. I do not even mention my own
favourite Socrates. He is not for the man in the street. He is a maker
of thinkers. I am speaking of makers of men, and contemplating the
possibility of a unique Maker, a Creator of an altogether new social
condition. Well, then, suppose I believed in the Logos in heaven and the
Logos on earth. Your philosophers would tell me to regard it as a divine
flame lighting many human torches without self-diminution. Granted. Then
I should believe that every man had his share of the Logos; some, a
great share; others, a very great one. Why should I not contemplate the
possibility of a unique and complete man, not ‘sharing,’ but containing
or being—a man that might be or contain the totality, or, as Paul says,
the fulness, of the Logos? I see weak points in this torch-analogy except
as an illustration of the belief; yet the belief itself does not appear
to me against reason. But enough of this rambling! I have discerned of
late many signs that I am growing old, and none more patent than this
tendency to expatiate on my cast-off Christian explorations begun in the
years when I was vigorous. I pass, and with great relief, to some things
that are real possessions—I mean some portions of Matthew’s and Luke’s
versions of Christ’s discourses.”

For my part, it was not with unmixed “relief” that I turned to the
next portion of Scaurus’s letter. His conclusions about Christ’s birth
had merely accorded with my inferences from Paul’s epistles; but he
had shaken my faith in Matthew and Luke as trustworthy historians; and
I looked forward with misgivings to his further criticism, which, I
feared, might prove destructive. In this depression, I endeavoured to
recall the words of Paul to the Corinthians about having a “treasure
in earthen vessels.” Mark certainly was an “earthen vessel.” Matthew
appeared likely to be no better, so far as I could judge from his story
of Christ’s birth and childhood. Luke, trying to reduce these legends to
historic shape, did not seem to me to have succeeded, in spite of all
his pains and sincerity. While I was unrolling the Corinthian epistle
to refresh my memory, the thought occurred to me, “Is it possible that
any God should choose such writers to set forth the life and character
of His Son! How could the All-wise be guilty of such foolishness?” I
had hardly uttered the word “_foolishness_” when my eyes fell on the
words, “The _foolishness_ of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.” Then I
became more modest. “God’s ways,” I said, “are not our ways. Perhaps He
desires to force us to think and to feel for ourselves.” I felt grateful
even to Mark because he alone had preserved some of Christ’s deep and
difficult sayings. And in the end I recurred to the thought that had been
of late growing stronger and stronger within me concerning the possible
inferiority of Romans and Greeks to Jews in things of the spirit.
“Thucydides,” I said, “would have surpassed Isaiah in describing exactly
the campaign of Sennacherib against Hezekiah. But in describing visions
and judgments of the Lord, Isaiah is, perhaps, the man, and Thucydides
the babe. I will continue my exploration, with Scaurus as a guide.”