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"Important and interesting as it is, to be made fully acquainted with this final crisis in the inner life of the Baptist; still this gradual overshadowing of his declining star, once so bright, was a fact of no great importance for the now risen day of pure Christian truth, and could exert but little influence on its wider diffusion. It is the dark side of the Baptist's memory, important for the completeness of the historical narration, and in itself, like every other particular respecting the great heroes of humanity, full of instruction, but for one who is simply the Christian friend and admirer of the Baptist, better to be left in obscurity and passed over in silence. We cannot therefore be surprised, that the apostle John, who had once been a disciple of the Baptist himself, should not have alluded in his gospel either to his death or to the light cloud which passed over his mind just before it occurred. While he does not deny what the earlier evangelists contained on this point, he prefers in his own gospel not to speak of it, and brings out into view more distinctly than preceding writers, every good and Christian trait which he could record of the Baptist; especially as the disciples of John, who were the evangelists' contemporaries, studiously passed over the words of acknowledgment which John pronounced on Jesus after his baptism, and dwelt rather with one-sided prejudice on his last dark words of doubt and mistrust."*
There are some peculiarities in Ewald's treatment of his subject which connect him rather with the earlier than with the later and bolder expounders of the "Life of Jesus," and are so far evidence of the conservative reaction which is taking place in this branch of theological learning. He adopts, for example, the old notion, that the fourth gospel is supplementary to the three first. There is truth, doubtless, in this statement, but not the whole truth; nor does it adequately express the just relation between the different evangelical narratives. Again, while he allows the impossibility of fully reconciling the accounts of Matthew and Luke, respecting the birth and infancy of Jesus-viewing the latter as the record of a peaceful and happy time, the former as filled with images of terror and flight-he supposes Matthew's narrative to contain more of the elements of the real story, and thinks with Neander,‡ that a census actually occurred in Judea in the time of Herod the Great, which Luke has confounded with the later one under Quirinus, the president of Syria.§ Ewald attempts to determine proximately the commencement of Christ's ministry by the following data:-Modern astronomical researches have rendered it probable, that the fourteenth of the Jewish month Nisan occurred on a Friday, in the year 33 of our vulgar † Ibid. p. 213. ↑ Leben Jesu, p. 24, note. 3rd edition. § Gesch. Chr. p. 153, 4.
Gesch. Chr. p. 315.
era.* This fixes the terminus ad quem: the Baptist opened his mission, according to the express statement of Luke, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, which is the year 28 or 29 of the same era, and allows about five years for the united ministries of John and Jesus. This reckoning he confirms by a passage in the Gospel of John (ii. 20). In the early part of his ministry, the Jews observed to Jesus, pointing to the temple, which they understood him to say he would destroy, and in three days raise it up again, "Forty-and-six years has this temple been building," for the work was still in progress. Now we learn from Josephus (Antiquit. XV. xi. 1) that the new temple was commenced by Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, which, as he began to rule 38 or 39 B.C., occurred about twenty years before the commencement of our era: adding these years to the twenty-eight, already assigned for the commencement of John's ministry, and taking both these sums as round numbers, we get very nearly the period of fortysix years, during which the Jews said this temple had been in process of construction, at the time of their disputing with Jesus. It would follow from these premisses, that the ministry of Jesus must have extended over three or four years. But all such data appear to us very uncertain, and to involve many assumptions. We cannot fix with precision the exact year of the birth of Christ. As the basis of a firm historical faith in him, we know enough in the indisputable fact, that his public ministry occurred in the closing years of the reign of Tiberius. Ewald has some notions peculiar, so far as we know, to himself. He thinks, for instance, that Jesus resided at first with his mother and brethren at Nazareth; that the family afterwards removed to Cana of Galilee, where John states that Christ's first miracle was performed; and then settled finally in a house of their own, in the neighbourhood of friends who also resided there (the families of Zebedee and of the two brothers, Andrew and Peter), in the more important town of Capernaum.§ From a window of his mother's house in Capernaum, and not, according to the usual explanation, in the
Ewald refers to some astronomical papers by Worm, in Bengel's Archiv für Theologie, Bd. ii. He assumes, it will be observed, the correctness of the statement in John's gospel, that the Friday on which our Lord suffered, and not the preceding day, according to the representation of the other evangelists-was the 14th of Nisan.
† This must be the rendering of ᾠκοδομήθη ὁ ναὸς οὗτος, to justify the argument which Ewald founds on the words.
t Gesch. Chr. p. 116.
The houses of Jesus and Simon Peter were a general rendezvous, according to Ewald, of the earliest disciples in Capernaum. Gesch. Chr. p. 284.
interior court, he supposes Jesus to have been addressing the multitude, when they brought the paralytic, who was taken to the house-top, and let down through the roof where he was (Mark ii. 4). This supposition renders the conception of the ordinary life of Jesus more vivid; but it seems at variance with his own express declaration, that the Son of man had not where to lay his head. The earliest scene of his Galilean ministry, Ewald confines to the district including the three neighbouring towns of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida; and from the denunciatory language used towards them (Matt. xi. 20—24), it may be inferred that the success of his ministry there, any more than at Nazareth, was not at first very great. It may be noticed, in passing, that Ewald considers the celebrated passage in Josephus respecting Christ (Antiquit. XVIII. 3) to have been interpolated. He thinks that in its original form, it probably spoke of Jesus as one of the Goetes of the time, and expressed perhaps some Pharisaic regret for his surrender to execution by Sadducean influence in the Sanhedrim. The other passage in the same work (Antiquit. XX. ix. 1), alluding to the death of Jesus the Just, he treats as genuine.* Such criticism, excepting only where internal evidence compels a negative conclusion, is altogether arbitrary and subjective.
Ewald's conception of the supernatural element, so closely interwoven with every fibre of the evangelical narrative, is not very clearly expressed. This is one of the least satisfactory parts of his volume; for it is a subject which cannot be evaded. Let him, however, speak for himself:
It is necessary," he says, " to distinguish from the wonderful works,' which, according to every account, belonged to the daily labours of Jesus, and the boundless profusion of which is hardly indicated in the gospels-the few special cases which greatly exceed them in character, such as the raising of the dead, the feeding of many thousands with a few loaves and fishes, the analogous case of the conversion of water into wine, the calming of the storm, the walking on the sea, and the instances of healing from a distance, as it were by the effluence of the simple spirit. For though it cannot be doubted, that all these remembrances formed a part of the very earliest constituents of the evangelical narrative, yet they plainly cannot be put on the same footing with the former. As in themselves they rise higher than the rest, so do they appear at wider intervals; and as understood by the oldest tradition itself, shoot up aloft like solitary peaks, to which in certain rare moments, Christ's concentrated power on outward things has elevated itself. And in truth there is not only an ordinary working, the individual efforts, facts and consequences of which
* Gesch. Chr. p. 107, note.
repeat themselves to infinity, but from all working, the more living, active and uniform it is, there fly out unexpectedly ever higher and higher new sparks and flashes; and every working of this kind pushes, as it rises, against another higher than itself, till at length perhaps it stirs and agitates the furthest limit that is possible. In Christ the common labours of every day were an unbroken series of mighty works: what, therefore, must those actions of his be, which, in certain rare moments, as if out of the concentration of spiritual forces already roused into the highest activity, sprang forth above the ordinary level of his life! So far, then, we have no reason whatever to limit the measure of spiritual forces, and arbitrarily determine how far in Jesus they might reach in the course of their highest operation; we must rather admit, that the highest spiritual effort continually presses forward beyond the customary effects to others still higher; and we cannot but rejoice that this is a general law which the life of Christ so powerfully illustrates. But then this mighty effort and agitation of the inmost powers of the purest and loftiest spirit, as it wrought in Christ, moving the world by his deeds, was so promptly met on the other hand by the highly-raised expectation and willing faith of his disciples, that in those rare moments of which we have spoken, they saw all the infinite greatness realized which they dreamed of and hoped for in him. It was only out of the concurrence of these two spiritual movements, that there arose into visible shape the conception and description of those rarer displays of the highest results and mightiest signs, in which, as in some mysterious foreboding or rapt vision, a deep-rooted faith can alone express its true sense of the actual manifestations of the highest in Jesus. Here already in actual history, although in only a few of its more favoured moments, the intensest longing had found its satisfaction; even as the purely divine, where it is discernible by mortal eyes, can only in certain sparks of light, as it were, shoot forth, and leave traces of itself behind; and if in former days, a like feeling had striven to still its cravings with the far lower manifestations of Elijah and Elisha, how much purer satisfaction was opened to it in the history of Christ!"*
Some further light may be thrown on his views by a passage in his Preface (p. xi.):
"If every great history, especially when it lies before us in its completed form, has the power of revealing to the spiritual eye
Gesch. Chr. pp. 196, 7. Ewald's note to this passage curiously illustrates his practice of wholly repudiating in form the theories of his predecessors, while in all essential points he adopts them :-"That the narratives of the New Testament" (he means the miraculous narratives,) "have altogether grown out of those of the Old" (Strauss's theory)" is a view completely at variance with history; nevertheless, it is true, that the facts of the former were expected in consequence of the latter, and the narratives of them, therefore, the more easily formed themselves."
which contemplates it, ever new heights and depths of sublime truth, which the mind will eternally strive to express in corresponding grandeur and glory, what truths of this nature may not this greatest of all possible histories, to the end of time, disclose to the eye which looks back on it from the right point of view, and what truths did it not open, immediately after its completion, on the quickened eye of the apostolic age! The gospels display to us, plainly enough, this remoter, secondary halo, which has gathered itself from without around the denser nucleus of this history, and for us of this later day, as necessarily belongs to it, as his outer ring to the planet Saturn. But however right and necessary are these truths, which, after the complete formation of the historical nucleus, and as it were shooting forth from it, have arranged themselves in permanent masses around it; there are yet particular aspects of the subject, in themselves of yet higher character, which, to obtain the clothing of a more determinate form, have sought out those passages of the Old Testament with which they might fuse themselves into the most appropriate expression, as if only the long-consecrated words of antiquity could fully substantiate them; and thus the narratives which have so arisen, possess as it were, à priori, a double life and a double meaning; since without the words of the Old Testament, which acquire now a significance they never had before, they could never have appeared at all. What, for instance, is a greater truth than this-that the Holy Spirit could not for the first time, at the baptism or at any conceivable earlier moment of the life of Christ, have come into contact with him; that it must rather have imbued with its creative force, and as it were engendered, him who appeared afterwards in the public life of history as ever inspired and actuated by it? This is a beam of thought which could only in the first instance shoot forth from the luminous mass of the whole biblical history, and might then, though admitted first into the somewhat later gospels, properly help to form that outermost circle of glory."
As far as we can make out our author's meaning, it amounts to this that Jesus possessed, and continually exercised in every part of his ministry, some extraordinary gifts of healing and curative power, which combined with the deep earnestness of his discourse, and the benignant sanctity of his life, to attract towards him the religious veneration of the multitudes, and to invest his whole being with a supernatural mystery; that the devout contemplation of him in this light, by those who first busied themselves to collect and reduce to writing their own remembrances, and all extant traditions respecting him, caused them to misapprehend and erroneously combine certain incidents in his history, and to ascribe to him exertions of power, which far exceed in deviation from the known and accessible laws of nature, his ordinary and constant agencies of healing,