A Guidebook to the Biblical Literature

By John Franklin Genung | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE LITERATURE OF FACT

[A.D. 30 onward]

For Fact, well-trusted, reasons and persuades,
Is gnomic, cutting, or ironical,
Draws tears, or is a tocsin to arouse,--
Can hold all figures of the orator
In one plain sentence; has her pauses too--
Eloquent silence at the chasm abrupt
Where knowledge ceases.-- GEORGE ELIOT

AFTER the ascension of Jesus ( Acts i), which left the disciples with a new courage and hope, and after the wonderful illumination which they experienced at Pentecost ( Acts ii), the little Christian community, still identified with Judaism and its associations, had no thought of making a literature, or even of needing any books except those of the Old Testament. Their first interests were active and practical. They were concerned to make known the momentous new truth that had been revealed to them and to avail themselves of its power and promise. For centuries their nation had subsisted largely on a literature of prophetic strain; had been looking for an ideal king and a golden age. And now that in the conviction of these disciples, henceforth called apostles, the era of fulfillment was come, the practical problem was not to write or philosophize about it but to make it available to the largest extent possible and to naturalize its results in the world.

In course of time, however, a literature must in the nature of things rise out of this Christian faith and activity. The

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