CHAPTER IV
MOTIVES IN THE TRANSMISSION OF THE MATERIAL

For the history of the material used by Luke we are fortunately not dependent exclusively on what is told us in his writings or on what we can infer as historically probable. The material itself reveals something of its own past. As surely as the excavator's spade yields to the trained archeologist reliable information on extinct civilizations, so does the analysis of the written record disclose the forces at work in its transmission. The "aetiological" study1 of the gospels and Acts is therefore an essential element in the understanding of their present contents.

The first impression made by such a study is one of multiplicity of motives, forms and methods. Unlike the stratified mounds of Mesopotamia or Egypt, the successive stages in the narrative transmission do not exactly retain

____________________
1
I owe this term to Professor B. W. Bacon. Compare his words in The Beginnings of Gospel Story, 1909, p. ix: "The key to all genuinely scientific appreciation of biblical narrative, whether in Old Testament or New, is the recognition of motive. The motive of the biblical writers in reporting the tradition current around them is never strictly historical, but always ætiological, and frequently apologetic. In other words, their report is not framed to satisfy the curiosity of the critical historian, but, as they frankly acknowledge, to confirm the faith of believers 'in the things wherein they have been instructed,' to convince the unconverted, or to refute the unbeliever. The evangelic tradition consists of so and so many anecdotes, told and retold for the purpose of explaining or defending beliefs and practices of the contemporary Church."

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