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Beyond question there are people who think such a picture of Jesus as the Fourth Gospel gives not merely beautiful in the sense in which even a fairy-tale may be felt to be beautiful, but also more trustworthy than that of the Synoptics. They are not concerned to find Jesus humanly intelligible in his whole character; on the contrary, the less human it is, the truer does it seem to them to be. It is not merely that they want one who can do the greatest miracles, but they really think it a most likely thing that, when the time was fulfilled, God would have caused exactly such a Saviour to appear. They are not disturbed when they find that Jesus’ enemies, in spite of all their efforts, never succeeded in overpowering him, and think it quite natural that the attempts did not succeed because God tied their hands. It 70does not surprise them that Jesus spoke to the people about his coming from heaven in a way that they could not under stand at all; were his teaching intelligible, it seems to them it would not have been so sublime as it must certainly have been. Taking examples from history, we will only add that Clement of Alexandria as early as about A.D. 200 called the Gospel of John the pneumatic Gospel, that Luther called it the true, unique, tender Gospel of Gospels, and that Schleiermacher (ob. 1834) ranked it high above the Synoptics.

We have no idea of arguing with people who feel in this way. We do not wish to destroy their idea; we respect it. One thing, however, they cannot expect us to attribute to them—we mean, the historical sense. Every one who has had much to do with history knows that, to understand events and characters, it is of the first importance to look for such explanations as suggest themselves to us from experience of other human happenings. There will always be points which we cannot clear up in this way. But every student of history knows that he would be defeating his own purpose if he were to set aside those obvious explanations which hold good again and again in all human experience and were to try to put in place of them indefinite and unusual explanations, such as a miracle, a direct intervention on the part of God. In other branches of history, even those people whom we have described above carefully avoid this; it is only in the field of “sacred” history that they prefer the dark to the clear, the inconceivable to the conceivable, the miraculous to the natural.

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