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refuse to try and harmonise discrepant details or divergent conceptions. Rather he will emphasise these as important, because they enable him to reconstruct the life of Christ as it presented itself to the minds of the Evangelist and of his readers. He will always be mindful of the fact that he is immediately concerned, not with the actual facts of the life of Christ or with His doctrine, but rather with these as mirrored in the mind of the particular Evangelist with whom he is dealing.
The third stage in the process belongs to the historian. Just as the commentator is obliged to rely very largely upon the work already done by the literary critic, so the historian must depend for his material to a great extent upon the work of the commentator and of the critic alike. He will have as his material the Gospels as analysed into their sources by the critic, and the mass of not always harmonious impressions of the life of Christ, as given to him by the commentators upon the separate Gospels. With this material at his disposal, it will be his duty to attempt to recover the historical facts of Christ's life, to ascertain as far as possible the exact words which He spoke, and to determine the meaning which these words originally carried with them.
In accordance with what has been said, I have felt it to be my duty to begin my work equipped with some acquaintance with the results of the literary criticism of the Gospels. If I have found it necessary partly to assume the results of such labour, and partly to work out a view of my own as to the sources of the Gospel, that is only because the work of the critic and of the commentator cannot in the present conditions of knowledge be quite kept apart. On the other hand, I have done my best not to encroach upon the sphere of the historian. Here and there I may have been tempted to express some view as to the historical character of some incident or saying, as apart from the general credibility of the source of which it forms a part, but generally speaking it has
been my aim to consider the contents of the Gospel always in the first place from the standpoint of their meaning for the editor of the Gospel, and only secondarily from the point of view of their relation to the historical Christ.
This explains, of course, in large measure, the limitations of the Commentary which follows. Considerations as to the historical character of the incidents which the Gospel records, have for the most part been carefully avoided ; and no attempt has been made to discuss the question whether the teaching here put into the mouth of Christ was as a matter of fact taught by Him. These are questions which should be left to the historian who is dealing with all the sources which are available for the reconstruction of the life of Christ, and should not be approached by the commentator who is dealing with only one Gospel.
This limitation carries with it the omission of reference to much literature, ancient and modern. If the commentator is engaged in explaining the meaning of a single Gospel from the standpoint of the Evangelist, he clearly need not discuss those ancient and modern conceptions of the historical Christ with which an historian of Christ's life must grapple. Consequently purely controversial discussion of modern critical views has been purposely avoided in the following pages.
Of course, I am aware that in practice the several stages in the process which I have described cannot be kept rigidly apart. The commentator must to some extent exercise his independent judgement in revising the work of the literary critic, and the historian will always find it necessary to test the work of both critic and commentator. But the range of subjects and activities connected with the work of using the Gospels as historical sources is so vast, that it is probable that in the future as, and in so far as, scientific method is improved, the commentator on the Gospels will not be expected to cover more than a part of the ground. He will, e.g., to a greater extent than is at present possible, be able to accept a Greek text from the hands of the textual critics, and so relieve his Commentary of any textual critical apparatus. He will be able also, with more justification than he can at present, to adopt the results of the labours of the literary critics, and so omit from his Commentary a good deal of critical analysis that is at present indispensable. This will leave him free for the more important work of endeavouring to ascertain the meaning of the contents of the Gospel to its writer and first readers, by the methods of investigation into the philological meaning of the words of the Gospel, and of illustration of its ideas from contemporary sources.
But within narrower limits the absence from these pages of continual reference to the vast literature dealing with the Gospel requires some apology. It would have
. been easy to double the size of this book if constant reference had been made to the interpretation of single passages by previous commentators. The limitation that I have imposed upon myself of stating simply the meaning that, as it seemed to me, a particular passage had to the mind of the Evangelist as he wrote it, without giving also the several or many other interpretations which have been given of such a passage by ancient and modern writers, requires some defence, and is, I feel, open to criticism.
I have adopted this course on the following grounds: (1) the purpose of this Commentary, to attempt to make clear the conception of the Evangelist, made it desirable to omit the interpretations of many writers who have commented on the book, with the quite different object of ascertaining the meaning of the sayings here recorded as they were spoken by Christ Himself. If, e.g., in dealing with 1617-19 I had given in detail, and with some discussion, all the views that have ever been taken of these much debated verses, I should have required many pages; but the reader's attention would only have been distracted from the end which I had in view, viz., to set before him as clearly as possible the meaning which these words had in the mind of the Evangelist when he placed them in their present position in his Gospel.
(2) In writing the following pages, I have always had chiefly in view the needs, not of the preacher nor of the general reading public, but of the student who desires to have some understanding of the growth and development of the Gospel literature in the first century A.D., and of the meaning which this particular Gospel had for the Evangelist and his first readers. Now a Commentary which is also a catalogue of all possible interpretations which have ever been read into the Gospel, and at the same time an Encyclopædia of information upon all subjects directly or indirectly connected with the subject-matter, is no doubt a very useful book, but Commentaries of this nature already exist, and they are very tedious to read. The student who wishes for information of this kind knows that on the one hand he can turn to the Commentaries of Meyer or Alford, and on the other to such indispensable works of reference as Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, and Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, or the Encyclopædia Biblica. I have myself often felt the need of a Commentary on this Gospel which would tell me, not all that can be known about every subject mentioned in it, nor every view that has ever been held about its sayings; but, what the words of the Gospel meant to the Evangelist, that I might form my own conclusion as to the value of that meaning; and I have purposely avoided filling these pages with, what seemed to me to be, needless iteration of information, which is easily accessible to every student.
Anyone who turns over the following pages will realise how impossible it is for me to express adequately my obligations to others. I have added to the Introduction a list of the writers to whom I have referred by name in the Commentary, but I owe an equal and in some cases a much greater debt to many others whose names will not be found there. I am particularly indebted to the cditions of Meyer's Commentary edited by Dr. B. Weiss, to Zahn's admirable Commentary on St. Matthew, to Wellhausen's brilliant notes on the first three Gospels, to the English Commentaries of Dr. Plummer on S. Luke, Dr. Swete on S. Mark, and Dr. Gould on S. Mark, and to Dr. A. Wright for his excellent Synopsis. To the members of the class which has met at Dr. Sanday's house for some years to study the Synoptic Problem I owe much, and especially to Mr. C. Badcock, the Rev. V. Bartlet, the Rev. B. W. Streeter, and the Rev. Sir John Hawkins, whose Horæ Synopticæ is the invaluable companion of every student of the Gospels. Sir John Hawkins was so kind as to read the proofs of the Introduction of this book, and it owes much to his correction and addition. Lastly, Dr. Plummer, as supervising editor, has very kindly made many most valuable suggestions and corrections.
Of my obligations to Dr. Sanday I cannot write adequately. He is in no sense directly responsible for anything that these pages contain, but if there be any sound element in method or in tone in what I have written, it is probably ultimately traceable to his influence and to that of his writings.
Finally: I think that no scholar will mistake the character and purpose of my translation of the texts of the First and Second Gospels. It aims neither at elegance of diction nor at correctness of English idiom. On the contrary, I have not hesitated to sacrifice idiom and correctness alike, in order to give a literal and bald rendering which should, so far as is possible, represent in English the differences in tense, in syntax, and in vocabulary between the Greek of the Second and that of the First Gospel.