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UNDERSTANDING that a certain criticism implied a sort of challenge to apply my theory of Luke’s character as a historian to the Gospel, I took what is generally acknowledged to be the most doubtful passage, from the historian’s view, in the New Testament, Luke 2:1-4. Many would not even call it doubtful. Strauss (in his New Life of Jesus) and Renan dismiss it in a short footnote as unworthy even of mention in the text.
This passage, interpreted according to the view which I have maintained — that Luke was a great historian, and that he appreciated the force of the Greek superlative (in spite of the contradiction of Professor Blass and others) — gave the result that Luke was acquainted with a system of Periodic Enrollments in Syria, and probably in the East generally. I looked for evidence of such a system; and it was offered by recent discoveries in Egypt. The confirmation afforded to Luke was explained in the Expositor,
April and June, 1897. Realizing better in subsequent thought the bearings of the Egyptian discovery, I have enlarged these two articles into an argument against the view that Luke sinks, in the accessories of his narrative, below the standard exacted from ordinary historians. At the risk of repeating views already stated in previous works, the second chapter attempts to put clearly the present state of the question as regards the two books of Luke, without expecting others to be familiar with my views already published.
The names of those scholars whose views I contend against are hardly ever mentioned. The scholars of the “destructive” school seem to prefer not to be mentioned, when one differs from them. I have learned much from them; I was once guided by them; I believe that the right understanding of the New Testament has been very greatly advanced by their laudable determination to probe and to understand everything, as is stated on p. 33; but I think their conclusions are to a great extent erroneous. It might, however, be considered disingenuous if I concealed that the weighty authority of Gardthausen, the historian of Augustus, is dead against me, p. 102.
My best thanks are due to Professor Paterson, who has discussed many points and cleared up my views in many ways; to Mr. B. P. Grenfell, who read the first proof of chapter 7, and enabled me to strengthen it; and, at last, to Mr. F. G. Kenyon; to Mr. A. C. Hunt; to Mr. Vernon Bartlett; and to Mr. A. Souter.
The language of the book has profited much by my wife’s care in revision.
It would be impossible — and only wearisome to the reader if it were possible — to trace the origin of every thought expressed in the following pages. Where I was conscious, at the moment of writing, that I was using an idea suggested by another, I have said so; but as regards the New Testament, one learns in the course of years so much from so many sources that one knows not who is the teacher in each detail.
The relation between the almost identical solutions of the Quirinius difficulty, proposed nearly simultaneously by M. R. S. Bour and myself, is explained in chapter 11.
W. M. RAMSAY.
POSTSCRIPT. — I hear, Oct. 2, that Messrs. Grenfell and Hunt have found a household-enrollment paper a little older than AD. 50. The date is lost, but the same officials are mentioned in it as in a document of the 6th year of [Tiberius], where the names of Claudius and Caligula are impossible. Hence the paper belongs to the census of AD. 20, and proves conclusively my theory as to the origin of the Periodic Enrollments from Augustus. Much of the argument in chapter 7, printed when the Periodic Enrollments were traced with certainty only as far back as AD. 92, is now confirmed so completely, that part of it is hardly necessary.
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