Christian Beginnings

Christian Beginnings

Christian Beginnings

Christian Beginnings

Excerpt

There is no dearth of good Introductions to the New Testament.Jülicher, Moffatt, andBacon--to mention but three--have long been standard, and will continue to be studied with profit for many years to come. In recent years there have appeared several more. It is not unnatural that each scholar wishes, if not to embalm, at least to preserve his own views on the New Testament as a whole. I suppose I must plead guilty to the same desire, at least in part. For many years I have felt a distinct need for a work of somewhat different compass, one that should include between one set of covers a reasonably comprehensive survey of many other matters beside an introduction to each of the twenty-seven books which Christians have long considered of especial value. The New Testament did not produce Christianity. Christianity, on the contrary, produced the New Testament. The student who starts his study of the New Testament with Matthew or even with the earliest of the Pauline letters is under a great handicap. He can truly appreciate these writings only as he understands why Christians felt themselves impelled to write. And Christianity itself did not spring into being full grown like Athene from the head of Zeus. She was the child of Judaism, although an unwanted child and soon disowned. But the Judaism that gave birth to a Jesus and a Paul was not that of the Old Testament prophets. This has often been conceded by Christians who have expatiated on the decay of a once noble religion into a barren and formal legalism. This appears to me an almost total misapprehension. The experiences through which the little nation passed during the five or six centuries before the dawn of the Christian era might well have proved her downfall; instead they made a tremendous and lasting contribution. At once pugnaciously conservative and yet always receptive to new ideas, the Jew exacted his toll from Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The doubts and the fears, the glowing confidence and wistful longings of these eventful years--all these were in the blood of Jesus and his early followers. But within little more than a century after his death the new religion which he had unwittingly begotten had become so completely acclimated to the wider Mediterranean world and had drunk so deeply at wells which no Jewish hand had delved that a Justin Martyr, hard put to answer the pagan charge that Christianity had stolen its rites and teachings, could only account for the obvious similarities by the counter charge that evil demons centuries before had seen what was destined to come to pass, and had frantically but vainly concocted counterfeits to discredit the genuine when it should appear. It is only as the student gains . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.