2 MARCH 1929, Page 41

A Guide-Book

to the Gospels

IN this little book, Bishop Gore has performed with brilliant success a task of which the difficulty is in inverse ratio to the size of the finished product. He has produced a compact, clear, and critical life of the historical Jesus ; which conforms to the demands of the Home University Library inasmuch; as it takes full account of modem knowledge, whilst preserving the dignity and reverence its great subject requires. Though doubtful questionings," of the sort that have already been showered on the editors and authors of the New Commentary, will probably come both from the right hand and the left, there can be little doubt that the central position of which Bishop Gore is one of the greatest living exponents—and which is assumed in this book—will more and more claim the approval and allegiance of moderate and clear-thinking men.

Intense interest in the character arid:ethical teaching of Jesus, coupled with complete unwillingness to accept the orthodox account of His person; is one of the most -striking peculiarities of contemporary thought. Anyone who will write about Him in an unconventional manner is sure of a hearing. Even for those who refuse to call themselves Christians, He is the most interesting figure in the history of the world. Yet it has so far been difficult to find any account of Him which—whilst presupposing and fully accepting. " modem knowledge "—does not either discredit, or omit, all those marks of strangeness which pervade His history; or else place in the foreground particular social and religious doctrines, and use the documents for their support. So, in spite of all that has gone before, the way was open for just such a book as Bishop Gore has given us ; and especially for one, issued at a price which places it in the hands of that enormous class of interested, but mostly uninformed people, which- is now at the mercy of the writers of much advertised booklets on Christianity for modern men."

Christology is a department Of religion which has suffered far more from its friends than from its enemies. As Drd Gore observes, those who believe with him that " the account of Jesus given by St. Paul and St. John is the true account," must be the first to lament the extent to which Church tradition has obscured the true outlines of that Figure, " by letting men half forget His humanity in its zeal for His divinity." The doctrine of the Incarnation of course requires a real man, living at a real point in history ; conditioned at all points by that history and by the cultural conditions of his environment, yet in and through these revealing the character of God. But the moment a serious or realistic attempt is made to satisfy these historical and philosophical require- ments, the rationalist is delighted and the pious soul is shocked. Moreover the pious soul, however limited its vision, is not altogether wrong ; for something which it instinctively feels to be of priceless value is generally sacrificed. The supposed photograph is just as unsatisfying as the stained glass windowi only in a different way.

Dr. Gore's method is a courageous attempt to give together the realistic portrait and the unearthly glow. After a deeply interesting account of the historical background, he proceeds to set out the story of Jesus as given in the First and Third Gospels, • assuming nothing as to its character and meaning. This occupies three chapters, and is followed by one in which the trustworthiness of the documents is discussed, and by a final section dealing with the Resurrection experiences Ofithe disciples, and the consequent formation of the Church. In accordance with the general tendency of modern Christology, the Bishop lays far more stress on the miraculous incidents which closed the earthly life of Jesus than on those associated with Its beginning. These, indeed, are only mentioned in

his concluding pages ; where he observes that belief in them should-be eonsideied rather as a result than as a ground of faith.- His chief emphasis falls upon the Ministry, and the perSoriality it reveals,- a personality full of colour --of a

rich humanity—combinirig 'a profound humility with tre- mendous authority, and a holy indignation with the tenderest love:" As an 'outstanding example of his treatment we may take the impressive description and interpretation of the TemptationS in the wilderness. They were, he says :

Not so much the temptations of the ordinary man, as the typical temptations of the-exceptional man; whose soul is possessed with a sense of ,a divine vocation which absorbs his whole interest

: . . temptations so Umisual" and, sn 'deeply congruous with the unique situation of the subject of them, exhibiting so deep an insight into his character and so summary a disclosure of the laws of his life and actions, that it is hard indeed to doubt that the account is authentic.'.'

It will 'certainly seem to some of his readers that Dr. Gore does a little less than justice to-. Albert Schweitzer's work ; and that hiS own very marked -ethical andhumanitarian bias- (Christianity " ought always to present_• itself to the . . . . world primarily as the good life to be livedin human brother- hoed ")- to pc "modifie-d by other. elements. Never- theless, on the balance of qualities, readers of all schools Of thought must be deeply gratefid 'for what he has giVen us. The freshness and vigour with which familiar facts and sayings are invested, the entire candour With which controversial points' area discussed, the sober scholarship which is never obtruded but makes its influence felt on every page, give this little work a value quite disproportionate to its size.

" In the long run," as he says in conclusion, " what any society is to become will depend on what it believes, or dis- believes, about the eternal things." Here the ordinary citizen, however scanty his leisure for reading, obtains the means of forming a reasoned judgment—and as a result of that judgment a belief ;respecting the impact of those " eternal things " on liminan life.