It has for some time been evident to all New Testament scholars who were not hidebound in old prejudice that there must be a new departure in Lukan criticism. The method of dissection had. failed. When a real piece of living literature has to be examined, it is false method to treat it as a corpse, and cut it in pieces: only a mess can result. The work is alive, and must be handled accordingly. Criticism for a time examined the work attributed to Luke like a corpse, and the laborious autopsy was fruitless. Nothing in the whole history of literary criticism has been so waste and dreary as great part of the modern critical study of Luke. As Professor Harnack says on p. 87 of his new book, "All faults that have been made in New Testament criticism are gathered as it were to a focus in the criticism of the Acts of the Apostles".
The question "Shall we hear evidence or not?" presents itself at the threshold of every investigation into the New Testament. Modern criticism for a time entered on its task with a decided negative. Its mind was made up, and it would not listen to evidence on a matter that was already decided. But the results of recent exploration made this attitude untenable. So long as the vivid accuracy of Acts 27, which no critic except the most incompetent failed to perceive and admit, was supposed to be confined to that one chapter, it was possible to explain this passage as an isolated and solitary fragment in the patchwork book. But when it was demonstrated that the same lifelike accuracy characterised the whole of the travels, the theory became impossible. Evidence must be admitted. All minds that are sensitive to new impressions, all minds that are able to learn, have become aware of this. The result is visible in the book which we have now before us. Professor Harnack is willing to hear evidence. The class of evidence that chiefly appeals to him is not geographical, not external, not even historical in the widest sense, but literary and linguistic; and this he finds clear enough to make him alter his former views, and come to the decided conclusion that the Third Gospel and the Acts are a historical work in two books, written, as the tradition says, by Luke, a physician, Paul's companion in travel and associate in evangelistic work. This conclusion he regards as a demonstrated fact (sicher nachgewiesene Tatsache, p. 87). It does not, however, lead him to consider that Luke's history is true. He argues very ingeniously against attaching any high degree of trustworthiness to the work, and hardly even concedes that the early date which he assigns to it entails the admission that it is much more trustworthy than the champions of its later date would or could allow. That is the only impression which I can gather (see below, p. 32) from the Author's language in this book. On the other hand, in a notice of his own book (Selbstanzeige), he speaks far more favourably about the trustworthiness and credibility of Luke, as being generally in a position to acquire and transmit reliable information, and as having proved himself able to take advantage of his position. I cannot but feel that there is a certain want of harmony here, due to the fact that the Author was gradually working his way to a new plane of thought. His later opinion is more favourable.
Some years ago I reviewed Professor McGiffert's arguments on the Acts. The American professor also had felt compelled by the geographical and historical evidence to abandon in part the older criticism. He also admitted that the Acts is more trustworthy than previous critics allowed; he also was of opinion that it was not thoroughly trustworthy, but was a mixture of truth and error; he also saw that it is a living piece of literature written by one author. But from the fact that Acts was not thoroughly trustworthy, he inferred that it could not be the work of a companion and friend of the Apostle Paul; and he has no pity for the erroneous idea that the Acts could fail to be trustworthy if it had been written by the friend of Paul. I concluded with the words: "Dr. McGiffert has destroyed that error, if an error can be destroyed". But what is to Professor McGiffert inadmissible is the view that Professor Harnack champions.
The careful and methodical studies of the language of Luke by Mr. Hobart and Mr. Hawkins have been thoroughly used by the Author. He mentions that Mr. Hawkins seems to be almost unknown in Germany (p. 19), and expresses the opinion (p. 10) that Mr. Hobart's book would have produced more effect, if he had confined himself to the essential and had not overloaded his book with collections and comparisons that often prove nothing. I doubt if that is the reason that Mr. Hobart's admirable and conclusive demonstration has produced so little effect in Germany. The real reason is that the German scholars, with a few exceptions, have not read it. That many of his examinations of words prove nothing, Mr. Hobart was quite aware; but he intentionally, and, as I venture to think, rightly, gave a full statement of his comparison of Luke's language with that of the medical Greek writers. It is the completeness with which he has performed his task that produces such effect on those who read his book. He has pursued to the end almost every line of investigation, and shown what words do not afford any evidence as well as what words may be relied upon for evidence. The Author says that those who merely glance through the pages of Mr. Hobart's book are almost driven over to the opposite opinion (as they find so many investigations that prove nothing). This description of the common German "critical" way of glancing at or entirely neglecting works which are the most progressive and conclusive investigations of modern times suggests much. These so-called "critics" do not read a book whose results they disapprove. The method of studying facts is not to their taste, when they see that it leads to a conclusion which they have definitely rejected beforehand.
The importance of this book lies in its convincing demonstration of the perfect unity of authorship throughout the whole of the Third Gospel and the Acts. These are a history in two books.
All difference between parts like Luke 1:5-2:52 on the one hand, and the "We"-sections of Acts on the other hand—to take the most divergent parts—is a mere trifle in comparison with the complete identity in language, vocabulary, intentions, interests and method of narration. The writer is the same throughout. He was, of course, dependent on information gained from others: the Author is disposed to allow considerable scope to oral information in addition to the various certain or probable written sources; but Luke treated his written authorities with considerable freedom as regards style and even choice of details, and impressed his own personality distinctly even on those parts in which he most closely follows a written source.
This alone carries Lukan criticism a long step forwards, and sets it on a new and higher plane. Never has the unity and character of the book been demonstrated so convincingly and conclusively. The step is made and the plane is reached by the method which is practised in other departments of literary criticism, viz., by dispassionate investigation of the work, and by discarding fashionable a priori theories.
Especially weighty, in the Author's judgment, is the evidence afforded by the medical interest and knowledge, which mark almost every part of the work alike. The writer of this history was a physician, and that fact is apparent throughout. The investigations of Mr. Hobart supply all the evidence—I think the word "all," without "almost," may be used in this case—on which the Author relies. Never was a case in which one book so completely exhausts the subject and presents itself as final, to be used and not to be supplemented even by Professor Harnack. It is doubtless only by a slip, but certainly a regrettable slip, that the Author, in his notice of his own book published in the Theologische Literaturseitung, makes no reference to Mr. Hobart, though he mentions other scholars from whose work he has profited.
The Author has up to a certain point employed the plain, simple method of straightforward unprejudiced investigation into the historical work which forms the subject of his study, a method which has not been favoured much by the so-called critical scholars of recent time. So far as he follows this simple method, which we who study principally other departments of literature are in the habit of employing, his study is most instructive and complete. But he does not follow it all through; multa tamen suberunt priscae vestigia fraudis. If we read his book, we shall find several examples of the fashionable critical method of a priori rules and prepossessions as to what must be or must not be permitted. These examples are almost all of the one kind. Wherever anything occurs that savours of the marvellous in the estimation of the polished and courteous scholar, sitting in his well-ordered library and contemplating the world through its windows, it must be forthwith set aside as unworthy of attention and as mere delusion. That method of studying the first century was the method of the later nineteenth century. I venture to think that it will not be the method of the twentieth century. If you have ever lived in Asia you know that a great religion does not establish itself without some unusual accompaniments. The marvellous result is not achieved without some marvellous preliminaries.
Professor Harrnack stands on the border between the nineteenth and the twentieth century. His book shows that he is to a certain degree sensitive of and obedient to the new spirit; but he is only partially so. The nineteenth century critical method was false, and is already antiquated. A fine old crusty, musty, dusty specimen of it is appended to the Author's Selbstanzeige by Professor Schürer, who fills more than three columns of the Theologische Literaturzeitung, 7th July, 1906, with a protest against the results of new methods and a declaration of his firm resolution to see nothing, and allow no other to see anything, that he has not been accustomed to see: "These be thy gods, O Israel".
The first century could find nothing real and true that was not accompanied by the marvellous and the "supernatural". The nineteenth century could find nothing real and true that was. Which view was right, and which wrong? Was either complete? Of these two questions, the second alone is profitable at the present. Both views were right—in a certain way of contemplating; both views were wrong—in a certain way. Neither was complete. At present, as we are struggling to throw off the fetters which impeded thought in the nineteenth century, it is most important to free ourselves from its prejudices and narrowness. The age and the people, of whatever nationality they be, whose most perfect expression and greatest hero was Bismarck, are a dangerous guide for the twentieth century. In no age has brute force and mere power to kill been so exclusively regarded as the one great aim of a nation, and the one justification to a place in the Parliament of Man, as in Europe during the latter part of the nineteenth century; and in no age and country has the outlook upon the world been so narrow and so rigid among the students of history and ancient letters. Those who study religion owe it to the progress of science that they can begin now to understand how hard and lifeless their old outlook was. But we who were brought up in the nineteenth century can hardly shake off our prejudices or go out into the light. We can only get a distant view of the new hope. The Author is one of the first to force his way out into the light of day; but his eyes are still dazzled, and his vision not quite perfect. He sees that Luke always found the marvellous quite as much in his own immediate surroundings, where he was a witness and an actor, as in the earliest period of his history; but he only infers, to put it in coarse language, "how blind Luke was".
What was the truth? How far was Luke right? I cannot say. Consult the men of the twentieth century. I was trained in the nineteenth, and cannot see clearly. But of one thing I am certain: in so far as Professor Harnack condemns Luke's point of view and rules it out in this unheeding way, he is wrong. In so far as he is willing to hear evidence, he comes near being right.
Practically all the argument, in the sense of facts affording evidence, stated by the Author has long been familiar to us in England and Scotland. What is new and interesting and valuable is the ratiocination, the theorising, and the personal point of view in the book under review. We study it to understand Professor Harnack quite as much as to understand Luke: and the study is well worth the time and work. Personally, I feel specially interested in the question of Luke's nationality. On this the Author has some admirable and suggestive pages.
That Luke was a Hellene is quite clear to the Author. He repeats this often; and if once or twice his expression is a little uncertain, as if he were leaving another possibility open, that is only from the scientific desire to keep well within the limits of what the evidence permits. He has no real doubt. The reasons on which he lays stress are utterly different from those which have been mentioned by myself in support of the same conclusion, but certainly quite as strong if not stronger; it is a mere difference of idiosyncrasy which makes him lay stress on those that spring from the thought and the inner temperament of Luke, while I have spoken most of those which indicate Luke's outlook on the world and his attitude towards external nature. But just as I was quite conscious of the other class and merely emphasised those which seemed to have been omitted from previous discussions of the subject, so the Author's silence about the class which I have mentioned need not be taken as proof that he is insensible to such reasons. But those reasons appeal most to the mind of one who has lived long in the country and has felt the sense impressions from whose sphere they are taken. Perhaps they are apt to seem fanciful to the scholar who has spent his life in the library and the study.
The sentimental tone and the frequent allusion to weeping, which is characteristic of Luke, is characteristic also of the Hellene: dort und hier sind die Tränen hellenische(p. 25). Mark and Matthew have hardly any weeping: there is more in John; but Luke far surpasses John. Such ideas and words as "injury" (an inadequate translation of the Greek ϋβριϛ, Acts 27:10, 21), "the barbarians," are characteristically Greek. "Justice did not suffer him to live" (Acts 28:4) is exactly the word of a Hellenic poet: the words are put in the mouth of the Maltese barbarians, but they are only the expression in Greek by Luke of their remarks in barbaric speech and their attitude to Paul; and they are the Hellenised thought of a Hellene. To Pindar or Aeschylus Justice and Zeus are almost equivalent ideas.
In an extremely interesting passage, p. 100 f., the Author sketches the character of Luke's religion. He recognises with correct insight the fundamental Hellenism of Luke's Christianity. To put the matter from a different point of view, Luke had been a Hellenic pagan, and could not fully comprehend either Judaism or Christianity. As in Ignatius, so in Luke, we see the clear traces of his original pagan thought, and we detect the early stage of the process which was destined to work itself out in the paganisation of the Church. The world was not able to comprehend Paulinism, and the result of this inability to understand the spiritual power was the degrading of spiritual ideas into pagan personal deities conceived as saints. It was not possible for even Luke to spring at once to the level of Paulinism; that would need at the best more than a single life, even supposing that there had been unbroken progress. As it happened, there supervened a degeneration in the level of thought and comprehension, after the first impulse communicated by Jesus had apparently exhausted itself, until the Christian idea had time slowly to mould the world's mind and impart to it the power of comprehending Paulinism better. After the first generation of Pauline contemporaries and pupils had died, we see little proof that Paulinism was a living power until we come down to Augustine, and then it appeared only for a moment.
I confess, however, that the Author, while he catches this undeniable characteristic of Luke's religious comprehension, seems to miss the elements in his thought that were capable of higher development. These were only germs, and the weakness of the Author's view seems to be that he recognises only the fully articulated opinion and is sometimes blind to ideas which were merely inchoate. Hence I cannot but regard the estimate (on p. 101) of Luke's Paulinism, i.e., of his failure to grasp Paulinism, as too hard and too thin.
I may give an example to illustrate what I think was the case. Like the Author, I think that the story in Luke 1-2 is dependent on an oral not a written report; but unlike him, I think that this report comes from Mary herself. Like Professor Sanday, I should conjecture that it came through one of the women named by Luke elsewhere. Here we have a narrative which comes from a Hebrew source, from a woman thinking in Hebraic fashion, one whose language was saturated with Hebraic imagery. This narrative Luke has transmitted to us in a form which clearly shows its Hebrew origin, and equally clearly shows that it had been re-expressed in Lukan language (as the Author has proved) and transformed by Luke. But also, I venture to believe, it has been re-thought out of the Hebraic into the Greek fashion. The messenger of God, who revealed to Mary the Divine will and purpose, becomes to Luke the winged personal being who, like Iris or Hermes, communicates the will and purpose of God. Exactly what is the difference between the original narrative and the Greek translation, I am not able to say or to speculate; but that there was a more anthropomorphic picture of the messenger in Luke's mind than there was in Mary's I feel no doubt. Yet I believe that Luke was translating as exactly as he could into Greek the account which he had heard. He expresses and thinks as a Greek that which was thought and expressed by a Hebrew.
But, with this qualification, the passage on p. 100 f. appears to me to be most illuminative and remunerative. As regards the Hellenism of Luke the difference between us is one merely of degree. We are really trying to say the same thing, but expressing it through the colouring and transforming medium of our different personalities, and I too imperfectly. The really important matter is this. In the first place, the Author sees clearly and perfectly and finally the first century character of Luke's thought; "He has come into personal relations with the first Christians, with Paul" (p. 103). In the second place, the Author's view that Luke was so incapable of comprehending the spirit of Christianity—for that is inevitably implied in his exposition, pp. 100-102—only brings out into clearer light Luke's inability to evolve from his inner consciousness the picture of Jesus which looks out in such exquisite outline from his historical work. The picture was given to, and not made by, Luke; and the Author himself shows plainly how it was given him. He had intimate relations with some of those who had known Jesus, and from that, more than from the early written accounts to which he also had access, he derived his conception. Where he altered this conception, it could only be to introduce his own poorer, less lofty ideas, and to betray his want of real comprehension. I do not at all deny that there are in his Gospel (as there are in the other Gospels) traces of the age and the thoughts amid which they were respectively composed; but these are recognised because they are inharmonious with the picture as a whole. They are stains, and not parts of the original picture.
Accordingly, in spite of certain differences, so close does this part of the task bring us, starting from our widely opposed points of contemplation, that the conclusion of this brilliant passage is an expression of Paul's general position in the Jewish and Hellenic world, as Harnack conceives it, which I am able to adopt and to use as my own:
"Paul and Luke are counterparts. As the former is only intelligible as a Jew, but a Jew who has come into the closest contact with Hellenism, so the latter is only intelligible as a Hellene, but a Hellene who has personally had touch with the original Jewish Christianity." Usually, in his characterisation of Paul, the Author sees the Jew so clearly, that he sees nothing else; and, as a rule, I find myself in strenuous opposition to his conception of the great Apostle. Here he recognises the very close contact of Paul with Hellenism. We must, then, ask whether that contact had been so utterly devoid of effect on Paul's sensitive and sympathetic mind, as the Author often represents it to have been? To me it seems that, while Luke was the Hellene, who could never fully understand or sympathise with the Jew (though his whole life and thought had been changed by contact with the religion taught by Jews), Paul was the Jew who had sympathised with much that lay in Hellenism and had been powerfully modified and developed thereby, remaining, however, a Jew, but a developed Jew, "who had come into the closest contact with Hellenism".
In the familiar argument about the "We"-passages of Acts, the Author puts one point in a striking and impressive way. In these "We"-passages, as he points out and as is universally recognised, Luke distinguishes carefully between "We" and Paul. Wherever it is reasonably possible, in view of historic and literary truth, he emphasises Paul and keeps the "We" modestly in the background.
Now, take into account the narrative in Acts 28:8-10:
"And it was so that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery: unto whom Paul entered in and prayed, and laying his hands on him healed him. And when this was done, the rest also which had diseases in the island came and were cured [more correctly, 'received medical treatment']: who also honoured us with many honours."
In this passage attention is concentrated on Paul, so long as historic truth allowed; but Paul's healing power by prayer and faith could not be always exercised. Such power is efficacious only occasionally in suitable circumstances and on suitable persons. As soon as it begins to be exercised on all and sundry, it begins to fail, and a career of pretence deepening into imposture begins. Accordingly, when the invalids came in numbers, medical advice was employed to supplement the faith-cure, and the physician Luke became prominent. Hence the people honoured not "Paul," but "us".
Here the Author recognises a probable objection, but considers it has not any serious weight, vis., that Luke, like Paul, may have cured by prayer and not by medical treatment. Against this he points to the precise definition of Publius's illness, which is paralleled often in Greek medical works, but never in Greek literature proper; and argues that faith-healers do not trouble themselves, as a rule, about the precise nature of the disease which is submitted to them. He acknowledges that this is not a complete and conclusive answer. He has strangely missed the real answer, which is complete and conclusive. Paul healed Publius (ίάσατο), but Luke is not said to have healed the invalids who came afterwards. They received medical treatment (ἐθεραπεύοντο). The latter verb is translated "cured" in the English Version; and Professor Harnack agrees. Now in the strict sense ἐθεραπεύοντο, as a medical term, means "received medical treatment"; and in the present case the context and the whole situation demand this translation (though Luke uses the word elsewhere sometimes in the sense of "cure"): the contrast to ίάσατο,the careful use of medical terms in the passage, and above all the implied contrast of Paul's healing power and Luke's modest description of his medical attention to his numerous patients from all parts of the island, all demand the latter sense. Professor Knowling is here right.
—Luke the Physician