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The study of the New Testament, 1883 and 1920 online

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The Study of the
NEW TESTAMENT

1883 and 1920

or m the vindication or rejection of documents
already known, or in the acquisition of wholly new
material. So much so, that some things even of what
Dr. Sanday then said could no longer be said to-day.

For the chronology of the second century Dr. Sanday
spoke (p. 15) of the date of Polycarp's martyrdom and
the dates of Justin's Apologies and death as ' pivot-
points '. On all of these a definite advance in precision
can be recorded. The Letter of the Church of Smyrna,
which is our authority, as it was the authority of the
church historian Eusebius, for the martyrdom of Poly-
carp, relates that the saint, who had then been a
Christian for eighty-six years, was martyred in the pro-
consulship of Quadratus, on a high sabbath, and on the
2nd of the month Xanthicus. These data were useless
to Eusebius, who placed the martyrdom by conjecture



lo THESTUDYOF

about the year 167 : but they were employed with great
skill by the French epigraphist and statesman, Wad-
dington (1867, 1872), to recommend a much earlier date,
Saturday, February 23, a. d. 155. Waddington's general
results were unimpeachable, but he had given no ex-
planation of the ' high ' sabbath ; moreover, we know
that Polycarp visited Rome during the episcopate of
Anicetus, and it was not eas}^ to place Anicetus' acces-
sion before this same year 155 at earliest. M3' own
first contribution to research ^ was the suggestion that
the true date was Saturday, February 22, a. d. 156, and
I think that that suggestion still holds the field.

With regard to Justin, the Acts of his Martyrdom are
now universally regarded as authentic (they have their
place in von Gebhardt's Acta Mai'tyrum S electa, 1902,
p. 18), and the date of office of Rusticus, the * praefectus
Urbi' mentioned in them, is fixed to a. d. 163 at earliest,
fifteen 3^ears after the date proposed by Hort.^ This
gives us the terminus ad quern for his writings : a new
terminus a quo appears to be offered by the discovery
of the date of the prefecture of L. Munatius Felix in
Egypt (see Justin, Apol. i 29) as c. a. d. 151." Justin's
writings thus fall later than used to be supposed, and
both Apologies and Dialogue may now be safely placed
in the sixth decade of the second century.

For the contrast of the newer state of our knowledge
with the old is not simply that we have more documents,
though we have, but that more precision has been
attained, and the number of disputable points reduced,
in the use of documents already familiar. Sometimes
this will be b}^ bringing down the supposed or traditional
date : Justin's are not the only writings cited by
Dr. Sanday in this section where the conventional

Mn a paper read in Oxford on October 31, 1887, and printed in
Studia Biblica, ii (1890), p. 105.

2 In a paper (referred to by Dr. Sanday, p. 15) in the Journal of
Classical and Sacred Philology, 1856.

' Oxyrhyncktis Papyri, ii (a.d. 1899), no. ccxxxvii, col. 8, II. 18, 20.



THE NEW TESTAMENT ii

ascriptions of early date have had to be curtailed. While
in the main the genuineness and antiquity of the litera-
ture have been signally vindicated, some serious qualifi-
cation would have to be made in regard both to the
pseudo-Clementine Homilies (^. 8) and to the earliest list
of canonical books called from its discoverer the Mura-
torian fragment (p. 14). Already in 1883 the older date
for the fragment, c. a. d. 170, had been challenged, and
I suppose it is now agreed that it should be assigned to
quite the end of the second century. But with regard
to the Homilies Dr. Sanday could still assume that
proof that they used the Fourth Gospel was proof that
the Fourth Gospel v^as older than a. d. 170. Since then
the age and the credit of this whole C3^cle of Clementine
literature has been steadily undermined : it belongs to
the third century, and not necessarily to the early part
of it.

If criticism, however, has thus reduced the bulk of the
remains of the second-century literature, discover}^ has
been no less busy than criticism, and its results are no
less noteworthy. To the last generation a primitive
literature of Church Orders simply did not exist : now
we have the discovery of a Latin palimpsest at Verona
which has led to the vindication for Hippolytus and the
beginning of the third century of the so-called Egyptian
Church Order,^ and, most sensational of all recent
trouvailles, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,
published by Bryennios ^ in the very year of Dr.
Sanday's lecture. In Armenian the lost treatise of
St. Irenaeus e/y eTriSeL^Lu rod aTroarToXiKov KrjpvyfjLaro^
' On the Apostolic Preaching ' was issued, with notes by

* E. Hauler, Didascaliae Apostolorum Fragmenta Vefonensia
Laiina, igoo; E. Schwartz, Uebe?- die 'pseudo-apostolischen Kirchenord-
?iungen^ 1910 ; R- H. Connolly, 7'he so-called Egyptian C/m?rh Order
and Derived Documents {Texts and Studies, viii. 4), 1916 ; and my
own articles in the Church Quarterly Review, 191 7, 1918.

' Philotheos Bryennios, AiSa;^/) rutv Adx^e/ca 'ATroo-ToXcot', vvv irpuiTov
€Kdi8ofX€vr], Constantinople, 1883.



12 THESTUDYOF

Harnack and a German translation, in 1907. In Syriac
Rendel Harris has found for us the Odes of Solomon
(1909) and the Apology of Aristides (1891) : the latter is
the earliest extant Christian Apology, and though the
uncomfortable habit of the second-century emperors in
adopting their predecessor's principal name makes it
difficult to decide between the Hadrian and the Hadrian
Antoninus which both occur in the address, it can
hardly be later than a.d. 140 ; the former work, though by
no means so early as some enthusiastic admirers have
supposed, may nevertheless be reasonably placed
within the limits of the second century.

Last in order let me cite what for the illustration of
the canonical writings would be first in importance, the
recovery in Egypt (1892) of substantial fragments of the
Gospel and Apocalypse of Peter, the former as startling
as the latter is dull. A writing is not necessarily inter-
esting because it is primitive, nor has a forger neces-
sarily much to say because he borrows an apostolic name
to play with. Neither 2 Peter nor the Petrine Apoca-
lypse raise our opinion of the intellectual standard of
the circles which produced the more orthodox Christian
pseudepigrapha, the Sunday afternoon literature of the
ancient Church ; the Gospel of Peter arrests our notice
both because the author has a quite definitely heretical
axe to grind — he is a Docetic Gnostic who tries to tell
the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of a non-
human Christ— and because his work contains the
earliest known evidence for the existence and circulation
of all four canonical Gospels. For proof that this
pseudo- Petrine writer used each of the Gospels, St.
John included, I must refer to an article of my own in
the Journal of Theological Studies for January 1913, the
argument of which I believe to be as unanswerable as
it is unanswered. Of course, the significance of this
Diatessaron, if we may so call it, of pseudo-Peter
depends on his date ; Professor Lake puts him 'between



THE NEW TESTAMENT 13

100 and 135 A.D. ' ; I should be content with a somewhat
lower estimate within the limits 1 15-140. Even so, it is
the most crucial bit of evidence for the history of the
Canon that the modern period has produced.



II

So far I- have been speaking of the chronology and
literature of the second Christian century as it provides
and warrants the evidence for the use and authority of
the New Testament Scriptures. I pass to the group of
writings which lie themselves on the borderland of the
Canon, the letters of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and
Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas, familiar to us
under the common heading of 'Apostolic Fathers'.
Documents which at least sporadically were ranked
with the New Testament itself — two complete copies
of the New Testament have reached us from the first
five centuries, and one of them, the Codex Alexandrinus,
includes the genuine as well as a spurious epistle of
St. Clement, the other, the Codex Sinaiticus, includes
the epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas —
could not be wholly left out of view, even if the}^ were
not also the earhest witnesses to the apostolic tradition.

Here the new material, if not sensational in extent
or character, is again considerable. Of the Epistle of
St. Clement to the church of Corinth we have now in
print a Syriac version edited by Bensl}^ (1899), a Latin
version edited by Morin (1894), and an imperfect Coptic
version edited by Carl Schmidt (1908). Of Hermas, on
the other hand, it is our knowledge of the original
Greek that has been reinforced, in one direction by
Prof. Kirsopp Lake's photograph and transcript (Claren-
don Press, 1907) of the Athos MS., our only Greek
authority for most of the book, in another by the
publication at Oxford and at Berlin of several papyrus
fragments, too small in bulk to rank as a new witness to



14 THESTUDYOF

the text, yet, owing to their age, of great value for testing
the character of the late and corrupt Athos MS.^

But the outstanding event of the period since 1883 is
bishop Lightfoot's superb edition of Clement, Ignatius,
and Polycarp, contained in five volumes, pubHshed three
of them in 1885, the other two (posthumously) in 1890 ;
the greatest contribution made to patristic learning in
tfie last two centuries. The Ignatian controversy has
now been set at rest : criticism has done its work, and
the genuineness of the letters can never again be called
in question.

Only on Hermas, among the sub-apostolic writers, is
there crying need for work such as Lightfoot accom-
plished for Hermas' elder and greater fellows— greater,
since no one can claim any intellectual or theological
capacity in the worthy man, elder, since the attempt to
set aside the clear external testimony which fixes the
date of Hermas in the neighbourhood of a.d. 140 seems
fortunately to have gone out of fashion. Some two
years ago, moved by the appeal of Prof. Grenfell, I
undertook— wisely or unwisely — the task of providing
a new edition. And a new edition of the Greek means,
in the first place, a new edition of the very ancient
Latin version. I wish that I could successfully appeal
to some younger scholar to aid me in the work and, it
may be, to carry it to completion.

The result of this preliminary inquiry has been to
show that the labours of the last generation have
secured for us a body of the Christian literature of the
second century better authenticated, more varied in
character, more precisely fixed in time, than our pre-


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Online LibraryCuthbert Hamilton TurnerThe study of the New Testament, 1883 and 1920 → online text (page 1 of 6)