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CHRISTIAN WRITINGS OTHER THAN GOSPELS
From heathen and Jewish sources, which give us so little, we turn to the more promising Christian sources. And before considering the various gospels, we examine other early writings in search of any possible mention of Jesus.
1. New Testament Books In the New Testament, besides the Four Gospels, we have twenty-three other books, all of which were written in the first century or, at the latest, early in the second century. Whatever they tell us about Jesus is, therefore, of high value as coming from the age of the apostles or of men who could personally have known the apostles.
The first interesting fact about them is that they give us very little about Jesus in addition to what is in the Four Gospels. We find one new and beautiful saying of his, “It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20 : 35); and, if the shorter form of Luke's account of the institution of the Lord's Supper be correct, then in I Cor. 11 : 24 we have for the first time the words, “This do in remembrance of Me." In I
Thess. 4:15–17 there seems to be the substance of some teaching of Jesus about his second coming. In I Cor. 15:5–8 we have a list of his resurrection appearances, more complete than that in the gospels, while Acts 1 : 1–14 gives the fullest account we have of his ascension and his instructions preceding it. These few sayings and facts, all given by Paul or Luke, comprise practically the only additional information in the New Testament. It seems strange that there should be no more. Of course the epistles were written to readers who already had been instructed in the facts of the Christian faith (1 Cor. 11 : 23, 15:3; II Thess. 2 : 5, et al.). So there was no need of rehearsing these facts. Moreover, the intense realization of a present, unseen Christ, and the earnest expectation of his speedy coming again in the flesh, made all Christians less disposed to dwell upon the historical past. Yet the epistles are full of allusions to the recorded facts of Christ's earthly years; and since there must have been many facts told by the witnesses besides those preserved in the gospels (cf. John 20 : 30), it is remarkable that such facts are ignored.
The second interesting fact about these New Testament books is that when we bring together their scattered allusions to incidents in the life of Christ, we have a mass of information from which we can frame a fairly complete outline of that life. And if this is done (see Gilbert, “Life of Jesus,” 402) we find that the outline agrees perfectly with the history given us in the Four Gospels. This should be borne in mind when sceptics try to prove that our gospels are a late invention, full of legendary matter. Here is another record of the life of Christ-a "gospel outside the gospels”—which would still remain, if the Four Gospels were wholly set aside.
It is true that some of these New Testament books are of disputed date and origin, so that sceptics may bring the same charge of late invention against them as against the gospels. But there are four great epistles-viz., I and II Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans—which practically all critics agree were written by Paul and before A. D. 60. Whether Paul ever met Jesus before the crucifixion is doubtful; but he was in Jerusalem soon afterward; he became a Christian within a few years; and he had every opportunity to learn about him. Natural curiosity, the hatred of a persecutor, the perplexities of an inquirer, the glowing love of a convert, and the increasing responsibilities of a teacher, would make Paul eager to learn all that he could—the more so because it was his practice, like that of the other apostles, to begin missionary work in any new field by telling the story of Jesus, especially of his crucifixion and resurrection (See I Cor. 15:1-9. Cf. Acts 13 : 16–41).
What, then, can we gather from Paul's four undisputed letters? We must not expect too much. They are written to Christians who already know the story
of Jesus, having learned it-most of them-from Paul himself. Whatever he says about that story will be by way of allusion and not of narration; and silence on any point will be no proof of ignorance unless there is imperative need of allusion. In simply this incidental way we learn that Paul knows (to give only one reference for each fact):
The birth of Jesus under the law (Gal. 4 : 4), of the seed of David after the flesh, but the Son of God and the Messiah (Rom. I:1-4).
The public ministry, with its limitation to the Jews (Rom. 15 :8); its humiliation (II Cor. 8:9); its band of apostles, whom Paul calls by the early name of the twelve (I Cor. 15:5), and the miracles which were wrought by them (II Cor. 12 : 12).
The teachings of Jesus, which Paul had evidently taken pains to learn exactly and which he treats as authoritative (I Cor. 7: 10), distinguishing carefully between them and his own opinions (I Cor. 7 : 25).
The character of Jesus, as the ideal of wisdom (I Cor. 1:30); truth (Rom. 9:1); self-sacrificing service (Rom. 15 : 1-3); gentleness and sweet reasonableness (II Cor. 10 : 1), and love (Gal. 2 : 20).
The details of the Last Supper, which Paul gives more exactly than the synoptists (I Cor. 11 : 23-25); the attitude of the rulers (I Cor. 2:8); the betrayal (I Cor. 11 : 23); the crucifixion (II Cor. 13 : 4); the burial and resurrection on the third day (I Cor. 15:4).
The appearances to the disciples after the resurrection, of which there is given a fuller list than by the evangelists (I Cor. 15 : 5–8).
These references—which might be increased show that the earthly life of Jesus was well known by both Paul and his readers; indeed, such incidental references are more suggestive than fuller statements would be, for they presuppose a larger acquaintance with the facts in order to make them intelligible. And not only do the facts thus indicated agree perfectly with the gospel story, but Paul's whole conception of Jesus harmonizes with that presented by the evangelists. Keim sums up the matter by saying: “The life of Jesus, as presented to us by Paul, is indeed rich in materiala gospel of the first days—and one which, in spite of its insoluble difficulties, would enable us to dispense with any further gospel; or rather, one which promises illustration and assistance of every kind to our gospels."
The term Apostolic Fathers is used to designate the earliest Christian writers whose works are not in the New Testament. They all wrote before A. D. 150, and might be considered in a general way as pupils of the apostles. “They were good men rather than great men, and excelled more in zeal and devotion to Christ than in literary attainments” (Schaff); and while their