R. J. (Reginald John) Campbell.

The life of Christ online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryR. J. (Reginald John) CampbellThe life of Christ → online text (page 1 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





This book requires some explanation. Six years
ago, at the request of Messrs. Cassel!, the author
undertook to write a hfe of Christ which should
rneet the needs of the ordinary churchgoer in re-
gard to the devout study of the subject without
ignoring the accepted conclusions of scholarship.
The difficulty, foreseen from the first, in executing
this commission was that of compressing the ma-
terial into manageable one-volume space, and it was
a difficulty which became accentuated as time went
on, especially with the rapidly rising cost of book
production in consequence of the war. The work
grew under the writer's hands to such proportions
that he asked the publishers to allow him to divide
it into a short series of smaller volumes instead of
presenting it whole and entire in one. This they
could not see their way to do — at any rate not at
present — so the course has had to be adopted of
cutting down the matter to the dimensions avail-
able. It is hoped that at some future time this short
outline of a great subject may be supplemented by
a homiletical commentary on the gospels.

For this is essential^ a preacher's life of Christ

in so far as it is a life of Christ at all. There is no

li/^J?Lj?)?jdst> nor ever will be, with our present



knowledge of the brief earthly story of Jesus of
Nazareth. A problem it is, a problem it must re-
main. But in this book the author has endeavored
to commend a special point of view, the point of
view of Christian experience, as being of first im-
portance for the study of the gospel records; and
he has never lost sight of his congregation. This
book has been preached almost in its entiret}^ — in
part to the City Temple congregation, and the re-
mainder to the Sunday morning congregation
which the author addresses week by week in Christ
Church, Westminster. Hence the homiletical
method predominates in the treatment of the con-
tents and the principles governing their selection.
Should any reader be disposed to complain of a
lack of proportion in the discussion of one aspect
of the general subject as compared with another,
he will now understand the reason. It was impos-
sible to give adequate space to all, so a choice had
to be made. The omissions will be obvious. To
examine the parables in detail, for instance, would
require an extra volume.

Perhaps it may be worth while to mention that
the principle has been followed herein of putting
capitals only when a word has some claim to stand
for a unique idea. Thus the Church universal is
spelt with a capital, any local church with a small
initial letter; the Kingdom of God with a capital,
any kingdom of this world with a small initial let-
ter; the word Gospel itself should represent the
Christian evangel as a whole, while any one of the
four gospels may be written without a capital.


In view of the fact also that this book is intended
for the use of the average man or woman who is in
the habit of attending pubhc worship, a careful se-
lection has been made of literature cited in the text
or wherewith to continue the study. It is to be re-
gretted that not all of this is obtainable in English,
though the greater part of it is. The titles are given
in English throughout.



I. Introductory 1

Eeligion in History 1

The Two Planes of Being 7

The Problem of the Life of Jesus ... 16

II. Principal Sources for the Life of Jesus 24

The Apostolic Story 24

Critical Theories 32

Importance of Apocalyptic .... 47

III. Conditions in the Time of Jesus ... 50

Eeligion and Race 50

Palestine and the World-Empire ... 53

Religious Parties 57

State of the People 63

IV. The Gospels, Canonical and Uncanonical 68

The Earliest Writing 68

The Gospel of Matthew 70

The Gospel of Mark 72

The Gospel of Luke 77

The Latest of the Gospels 83

Extracanonical Writings 90

V. The Nativity and Childhood .... 96

The Virgin Birth 96

The Genealogies 100

The Census 103

The Annunciation 105

What Happened at Bethlehem ... 106

The Settlement in Galilee 114

The Boy Jesus in Jerusalem .... 118

Jesus* Kindred 120




VI. On the Threshold of the Ministry . . 125

Relations with John the Baptist . . . 125

The Spiritual Crisis Following the Baptism 132

The Good News of the Kingdom . . . 136

The Kingdom and the Messiah . . . 138

Jesus and Messiahship 140

Mystery of Jesus' Self -Knowledge . . 144

VII. The Commencement OF Jesus' Public Life 152

The First Disciples 152

In Cana of Galilee 158

The First Cleansing of the Temple . . 164

The Interview with Nicodemus . . . 172

The Woman of Samaria 177

The Early Galilean Ministry .... 181

"Works of Healing 186

Public Teaching 189

VIII. The Early Ministry 202

The Sequence of Events 202

Additional Wonder-Working . . . 204
End of the Distinctively Synagogue Min-
istry 216

Beginnings of Definite Opposition . . 224

The Commission to the Apostles . . . 232

The Baptist's Message to Jesus ... 237

IX. The Culminating Period of the Ministry 248

Jesus' Relations with His Family . . 248

The Warning against Blasphemy . . . 253

Jesus' Power over the External World . 256

Jesus as Teacher 284

X. Last Phase of the Ministry .... 302

Defections and Plottings 302

Retirement to Foreign Soil .... 305
Wanderings in the North: the Scene at

Caesarea Philippi 311

The Transfiguration and Its Sequel . . 318

Events in the South 331



XI. The Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension 357

Events Antecedent to the Last Passover 357

Last Journey to Jerusalem .... 362

Events of Passion Week 371

Jesus Put to Death 385

"He Is Risen" 396

Appendices 413

Personal Appearance of Jesus .... 413

The Kind of Home in Which Jesus Lived 418

Bibliography 421



Religion in History

The period of recorded human history is but
short compared with the unnumbered ages which he
behind. Science tells us that our world has been
millions of years in preparation for the advent of
humanity ; there may even have been organic life on
this planet millions of years ago ; but man himself,
man as clearly distinguished from the brute crea-
tion, is only of yesterday. And of that yester-
day what a small portion is thoroughly known!
History, properly speaking, begins a f-ew genera-
tions back, and beyond that is a far longer stretch
of time concerning which we know almost nothing.
Primeval man has left many traces behind him,
principally implements of war and the chase, but
how he thought and felt about the great mystery
that we call life is completely hidden from us. Per-
haps he did not think and feel much; perhaps the


fierce necessities of existence forbade the contempla-
tion of abstract questions ; perhaps he had no more
inchnation or capacity for these than an Austrahan
aborigine has at the present day. Still there is this
to be said about the matter, that what specially dif-
ferentiates man from all other living creatures is
that he does ask questions, he does wonder and wor-
ship, he does seek to know how he stands related to
the power or powers partially revealed in the phe-
nomenal universe. A savage might not put the case
to himself in this way, nor have the capacity for
doing so, but even in animism this is what is dimly
present to his mind. He is ever conscious of a
beyond, a veiled presence, a greater than himself,
with which (or whom) he has to do whether he will
or no. This may not be a very lofty experience in
its initial stages, but such as it is it is the root of all
religion. For religion is essentially a reaching out
to what is above and beyond ourselves, above and
beyond all that we can see and know of the material
order of things. It is our attempt to enter into rela-
tions with our cause ; and man in the mass has never
yet been persuaded that that cause is itself material.
We instinctively feel it to be spiritual — that is, self-
conscious as we are self-conscious, and capable of
willing and acting as we will and act. Nay, more —
it is that whence we derive these qualities and capa-

Let it be recognized as aforesaid that it is highly
improbable that primitive man reasoned in this
way; but if we are to judge from the psychology of
undeveloped races in the world to-day, he went



straight to the mark and took it all for granted, as
it were. He could not help investing the forces of
nature with the kind of intelligence he himself pos-
sessed, and assuming that those forces were directed
by thought and purpose; and where you get that
you get religion. We have no good ground for
thinking that any other eartlily creature is capable
of so much ; man is the being with the upward look ;
we might almost say that the capacity for religion
is the dividing line between the hmnan and sub-
human kingdoms. Nowhere do we find man with-
out religion; it is that which constitutes him man.
This statement may be gainsaid, but only by citing
the most degraded and abnormal types of human-
ity. The history of man is the history of religion.
Every achievement that stands to his credit in liis
long and arduous upward climb is directly or indr;
rectly associated with his religious consciousness^

Short as is the period of recorded history, it is
longer than we used to think. We have now
good reason for believing that civilization reaches
back as far as 10,000 B.C. and even farther. Re-
ligion has succeeded to religion in that vast period
of time, race to race, society to society. But one
thing is certain throughout, and that is that man has
ever been deeply impressed by the mystery of his
being and his dependence upon superhuman power.
The instinct of worship has always made itself felt
within him, together with the ineradicable belief
that his sources are in the unseen, that his nature is
fundamentally spiritual and therefore not wholly
to be interpreted in terms of his fleshly constitution.


Nevertheless, it must be admitted that on the
whole the religious systems of the world have not
been very elevating. In many instances they can
only be classed as degrading and cruel superstitions ;
not a few were and are morally licentious. It can-
not be maintained that religion has invariabty and
necessarily had a lofty or inspiring influence upon
the ideals and conduct of mankind ; too frequently
it has had quite the reverse. Even such a marvel-
ously developed civilization as that of classical
Greece was from the religious point of view in many
ways anything but admirable ; ^ the gods and god-
desses of the Greek pantheon were credited with
being rather worse in their behavior than their vo-
taries. No one could pretend that Greek religion
stood for idealism in belief and practice, though this
is a statement which may require to be modified if
we have regard to the products of Greek philosophy
which assimilated itself very readily later in certain
ways to the Christian religion." We also need to
take account of the fact that the various Greek mys-
tery-cults which came into existence near to the
Christian era seem, as far as we can gather — for we
have not much reliable information about them — to
have laid stress upon ideas which we now think of as
specifically Christian. The idea of sacrifice is one
of these — the sacrifice of God for man. Bound up
with this is another, that of the dying and rising

1 But for a balanced and illuminating view of this subject vide
Prof. Gilbert Murray's Four Stages of Greek Religion.

2 Vide Lewis Campbell : Religion in Greek Literature, chap, xiii
to end; T. R. Glover: Conflict of Religions in Early Roman Em-
pire, p. 106 ff; Lecky: History of European Morals, Vol. I, chap,
ii. p. 161 #.



savior.^ And behind both is the thought of a world
needing to be redeemed from its evil.

But the most noteworthy fact relating to religion
in the ancient world is the rise of the Israelitish
prophets. It should be understood by modern read-
ers that these were primarily preachers, not merely
soothsayers or foretellers of events.* And they
rendered one inestimable service to all the ages that
followed them, ours as much as any, and that was
their welding of religion and morality. Believing
themselves to be divinely inspired, they taught that
their God, the God of Israel, must be worshiped in
righteousness. Hence Israelitish religion is a unique
fact in history ; it stands by itself both in the purity
of its lofty monotheism and in the wonderful influ-
ence it has exerted upon the rest of the world. It
would be more correct to say Jewish religion, for it
is only the tribe of Judah that has persisted right
through the ages and given its name to the faith
from which Christianit}^ sprang. The other tribes
which constituted the ancient kingdom of Israel
have for the most part, through successive con-
quests and apostasies, been scattered and merged in
surrounding kindred peoples. The Jews alone,
through all the vicissitudes of their national exist-
ence, have preserved their consciousness of identity
and their ancient faith ; they have been, as they still

2 It may be new to some readers that this was ever a Greek idea
or in fact any other than a Christian idea; but the knowledge is of
value as showing that the preparation in history for the Christian
faith was wider and deeper than is often supposed.

4 Hamilton : People of God, Vol. I, chap. v. and Marti's excellent
chapter on this subject in his Relic/ion of Old Testament (Williams
& Norgate).



are, a peculiar people in more ways than one.
It need hardly be said that Judaism was not al-
ways the clear-cut ethical and monotheistic system
that it is to-day or that it was in later Old Testa-
ment times. Originally Jehovah (Yah well) was re-
^rded by the people of Israel as only one God
among many, their own particular tribal deity as
distinguished from the deities of other nations. And
the righteousness insisted upon by the earlier proph-
ets as acceptable to Jehovah was often grim and
terrible, far removed indeed from the Christian
standard with which we are familiar to-day. But
at least it can be said that the religious ideal and the
ethical ideal were held to imply each other; the
prophets would not suffer them to be considered
apart. This was why the prophets strove so hard
throughout the history of Israel, while it remained
one, and not a very large one, of the number of
Semitic nations inhabiting hither Asia, to pre-
serve the national worship from contamination
from foreign sources. Elijah's fierce battle
against the Baalim, for instance, was not a
mere question of names; all the future of the race
was at stake. Had Baal worship prevailed it would
have meant a permanent lowering of the whole
standard of moral and religious belief and practice ;
.Israel would have become assimilated in manners
^d conduct to the rest of the Canaanitish peoples,
and probably likje these would ultimately have per-
ished from the earth. It is a very impressive fact
m the providential order, when we come to consider
it, that this did not happen, but that Israel — or at



least Judaism — survived to maintain a constant wit-
ness to the unity and righteousness of God, the
power behind phenomena, the Creator and sustainer
of all that is. For gradually the God of Israel came
to be thought of as the God of the whole earth, the
one and only God; and the idea of righteousness
was slowly clarified and ennobled until the fuller
and higher Christian revelation became possible/

This is one fact then to be specially noted: the
religion of Israel is a unique phen omenon in t^e
pre-Christian world. " The claim made for it is f ulljy
justified, that it represents a special divine revela-
tion, a preparation for a. true world-religion when
the time should be rij^e. Its very narrowness and
exclusiveness, which we must note later, and its de-
termination to arrogate to itself a position of privi-
lege in relation to the things of God, may actually
have helped up to a point to preserve the content of
this revelation; but those bonds had to be burst in
the end to give room for the ampler life which had
sprung up within the old Jewish environment/

The Two Planes of Being

Now for a space let us turn awaj'^ from the his-
torical standpoint and consider another. Instead
of going back into the past to learn how things have
come to be what they are in the present, we may

^ Marti, ut sup. p. 4 et seq. Hamilton : uf sup.. Vol. I, chaps,
iii, iv.

^ This view has been challenged, but is surely demonstrable from
the facts of history.

^ Addis: Hebrew Religion (Williams & Norgate), pp. 76, 138,
152 ff. Loisy: Religion of Israel, v, vi, Judaism and Messianism.
Cf. Montefiore: Religion of the Ancient Hebrews, concluding Lect.



view the whole subject in an equally important but
entirely different way: we may examine the struc-
ture of existence itself.

In modern times science has been familiarizing
us with a view of the constitution of the universe
which at first sight might seem to leave little room
for religion. We find the universe to be vaster than
^ the ancients ever knew, the particular star on which
. welive being one of the smallest out of untold myri-
ads. It is wonderful, amazing beyond words, to the
imagination inconceivable in its immensity, this
universe of universes in a comparatively tiny speck
of which we dwell and are whirled through space
with a velocit}^ all but immeasurable. This stupend-
ous whole of things is said by some to be self-con-
tained and self-sufficient. Out of the boundless
ocean of ether, which forms its basis, solar systems
continually arise, evolve, pursue their course for an
indefinite number of ages, disintegrate and sink
back into their primordial elements only to begin
the same process all over again ; there is no cessation
to it. At this moment in the heaven above us we
can observe planetary aggregations at every stage
of the cosmic integration and dissolution through
which the particular group of worlds to which our
mother earth belongs has passed, is passing, and
will pass from the beginning to the end of the life
of a sun and his satellites.

As far as the planet earth is concerned the details
of the process up to the present have been fairly
well laid bare. We have learned from what lowly
beginnings organic life took its rise, and how slowly


and painfully it has developed through species after
species till its culmination in man. Some authori-
ties maintain that it is going on farther, and will by
and by produce a superman. That may be; re-
ligion need have no quarrel with the thought; but
so far man represents nature's supreme achieve-
ment. We need not argue the question whether
any outside agency was required for making him
what he is, or whether the slow and gradual opera-
tion of natural forces and material conditions was
sufficient for the purpose. Here he is, and there is
that in him which is not to be accounted for on ma-
terial grounds alone. He can wonder, love, plan,
achieve ; he can probe nature's secrets and make use
of nature's powers to his own ends ; he may be com-
paratively puny in face of nature's colossal energies
and terrific catastrophes, but he knows, and he
knows that he knows, whereas nature does neither. <
This one impressive fact that here is a being that
knows, a being that can think and plan, that can
look before and after, is not to be explained by evo-
lution or natural selection or any other theory of
existence which takes account of the material and
phenomenal only. It belongs to another order of
things altogether. Man is a being belonging to the
visible universe in his body and the conditions under
which it has to be kept alive ; but he belongs to some-
thing superphysical in what is most really himself,
his thinking part, that of him which knows, and
feels, and aspires.

This consideration throws us back upon a thought
implied in all which has been said hitherto, namely,


that religion is primarily the assertion of a super-
natural order as contrasted with the natural.^ This
is the most important thing to grasp at this stage
of our inquiry. The world that hes open to us
through the five senses represents an order of things
complete and coherent in itself. It is an order
wherein are certain observable sequences which we
call laws. These sequences are both of time and
space, and, constituted as we now are, we cannot
think without them. If we press our analysis of
them far enough we find that they tend to disap-
pear or to result in hopeless mental tangles and con-
tradictions, but we cannot get outside them. For
instance, let us say, it is twentj^ minutes to seven
by the clock as j^ou read these words, but it was
about twenty-five minutes past six when you first
began to do so. 'No one could convince the ordi-
nary plain man that that lapse of time has not
meant a real and lasting change; when an hour is
gone, it is gone never to return. We live so many
years, and we too pass away, never to return. Gen-
eration succeeds to generation, life to life, age to
age. We live all our daj^s in time-relations, and
we cannot conceive what a state would be like in
which there was no time. It is the same with space
— in fact the two imply each other. Form, color,
mobility, distinguishing characteristics — all these
depend upon our constant experience of an order
of things in which we are governed by the ideas of
space and time. It takes us so long to walk across

8 Employing neither term in the strict theological sense as defined,
e.g.,hy Fr. Sollier in Catholic Encyclopcedia (Caxton Publishing Co.).



the room, so much longer to journey from London
to Edinburgh by train, and so much longer still to
travel from the cradle to the grave. We are born,
grow up, marry and are given in marriage, struggle,
suffer, grow old, decay, and die — unless we are cut
off before our time. Everything else follows much
the same course, be it long or short. The sun rises
and sets, flowers bloom, rivers flow, all in conformity
with certain observable sequences bound up with
space and time. Within limits we can depend upon
these absolutely. "While the earth remaineth, seed-
time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer
and winter, and day and night shall not cease." ^

Such is the natural order. We cannot imagine
any other. Try to picture any other, and at once
you are at fault. Do what you will, the order you
picture will have three dimensions — length, breadth,
and height. You may draw a fearsome dragon for
your little boy, such a dragon as the world never
saw and never will see, but j^ou will have to give it
the same kind of organs as you possess yourself in
common with the rest of creation. The limbs with
which you invest it may be such as no creature has
ever walked about on, but they will be limbs. Its
eyes may dart flames of fire or scintillate with all
the hues of the rainbow, but they will be eyes ; and
so on with all the rest of it. We cannot even in
imagination escape the dominion of the natural or?
der, although, as has already been indicated, the
fact that we can conceive of and direct our conduct
by such values as love, truth, honor, and the like,

®Gen. viii. 22.



shows that we have affinities with something not
wholly to be expressed in terms of the natural

Is there then a higher order of being than this
natural order with which we are so well acquainted ?
Yes, all religion affirms it; all goodness declares it.
What is it like ? We do not know, and by our own
unaided faculties have no means of knowing. "Eye
hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered
into the heart of man the things which God hath

Online LibraryR. J. (Reginald John) CampbellThe life of Christ → online text (page 1 of 29)