Recent Lives Of Christ -- By: E. F. Williams

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:170 (Apr 1886)
Article: Recent Lives Of Christ
Author: E. F. Williams

Recent Lives Of Christ

Rev. E. F. Williams

As a preparation for a study of the recent Lives of Christ, one cannot do better than carefully to read the monographs by Canon Farrar in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, by Rev. S. J. Andrews in Johnson’s Cyclopædia, by Dr. William Thomson in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, and by Zöckler in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge. An article on Christology in this last work, by Dr. Philip Schaff, should also be read. These articles will acquaint us with the differing theories and theological prepossessions of the authors of the leading lives of Christ, and enable us to understand and make due allowance for the prejudices of the author we are reading. The immense bibliography connected with the life of our Lord may be studied in the various editions of Hase’s monumental work.

The Patristic church made no attempt to treat the life of Christ historically or critically. It was satisfied with the simple gospel story. The Harmonies of Tatian and Ammonius only seek to set forth the substantial agreement of the evangelists. Poetical representations of the life of Christ—lyrical, as the Apotheosis, of Prudentius; dramatic, as the Suffering Christ, of Gregory Nazianzen; epic, as the Evangelical History of the Spanish presbyter, C. Vettius Aquilinus Juvencus, who lived in the fourth century—were frequent and striking. The Greek paraphrase of the Gospel of John, by Nonnus of Egypt, which appeared in the fifth century, and the heroic poem of the Miracles, by Coelius Sedulius, of the same century, testify to the interest taken in the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth. (See article in Schaff-Herzog.)

Harmonies and poetical treatises were also produced in the Middle Ages. The Harmony of Victor of Capua, published in the ninth century, and the Monotessaron of Gerson, which appeared at Cologne in 1471, were thorough and critical. Two of the many lives of Christ written in this mediaeval period for purposes of devotion are worthy of notice: the work of Bonaventura, first printed in 1480, and appearing at London in an English translation as lately as 1881; and the work of Ludolphus Saxo, a Carthusian monk who lived at Strasburg about the middle of the fourteenth century. His book was printed at Strasburg in 1470 and at Brussels in 1870.

Of the lives of Christ written prior to the eighteenth century, the one by Jeremy Taylor, which appeared about 1653, alone has permanent value. For the richness and beauty of its style, the serenity and devoutness of its spirit, this life is still worthy of study. The life by John Fleetwood (probably an assumed name), which is sometimes bound up with a life of John the Baptist, the twelve ap...

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