Was Christ Born in Bethlehem? by Sir William Ramsay

Sir William Mitchell Ramsay
Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

Sir William M. Ramsay’s classic defence of the historicity of Luke-Acts. My thanks to Book Aid for making a copy of this public domain title available for digitisation.

William M. Ramsay [1851-1939], Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? A Study on the Credibility of St Luke. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1898. Hbk. pp.280. [Click here to visit the download page for this title]

Table of Contents

  1. Luke’s History: What it Professes to Be
  2. Plan and Unity of Luke’s History
  3. The Attitude of Luke to the Roman Empire
  4. Importance in Luke’s History of the Story of the Birth of Christ
  5. The Question at Issue
  6. Luke’s Account of the Enrolment
  7. Enrolment by Households in Egypt
  8. The Syrian Enrolment of the Year 8 B.C.
  9. The Enrolment of Palestine by Herod the King
  10. Chronology of the Life of Christ
  11. Some Associated Questions
  • Appendix

Preface

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 ii. 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 Enrolments 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.

Realising 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….

Pages vii-ix

Commentary on Mark’s Gospel by Allan Menzies

Allan Menzies [1845-1916], The Earliest Gospel. A Historical Study of the Gospel According to Mark

Allan Menzies was Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of St Andrews. His commentary of the Gospel of Mark (which contains both a Greek and English text) argues for a date of composition around 70 AD. My thanks to Book Aid for providing a copy of this public domain title for digitisation.

Allan Menzies [1845-1916], The Earliest Gospel. A Historical Study of the Gospel According to Mark. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1901. Hbk. pp.306. [Click to visit the download page]

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Table of Sections and of the Parallel Passages in the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke

I. Introduction

  • The Synoptic Problem. The Gospel not originally written
  • Motives of the formation of the Gospel tradition. The Gospel to be understood from the Apostolic Age
  • Why the Gospels appear so late
  • Absense from the earliest Christian writings of the details of the gospel ministry
  • Early Christian theology did not require the Gospels
  • The tradition was important practically
  • Aetiological motive in the Gospel tradition
  • Apologetic motive
  • Devotional motive
  • Yet the Gospels are also historical
  • State of the tradition before Mark wrote. Its fragmentary nature
  • Early collections of Gospel materials
  • Nature of Mark’s Gospel as gathered from itself
  • Absence of discourses
  • Sources of this Gospel
  • Mark’s order
  • Progress of Mark’s narrative
  • He treats his materials with freedom
  • Descriptive touches. Was the Gospel written to be read at meetings?
  • The Gospel is addressed to Western readers
  • Aramaisms and Latin words
  • Traces of Paulinism
  • Date of the Gospel
  • Personal history of Mark
  • Mark and Paul
  • Mark and Peter
  • Church traditions of Mark
  • Account of Papias
  • Conclusion

II. Text, Versions and Commentary

III. Index of Subjects

IV. Index of Passages Referred to

Preface

The Gospel according to Mark is now regarded by nearly all scholars as the earliest and also the most original of those which we possess; and if this is the case the study of the Life of Christ must begin with it. As Professor Pfleiderer points out in his Urchristenthum, this Gospel alone admits of examination apart from any other; and the first step in the attempt to see Christ as history reveals him, must be to apprehend as clearly as we can the individual testimony of Mark’s Gospel.

Several recent works on the second Gospel appreciate its importance on this ground. What is now presented to the reader does not enter into competition with the commentaries of Professor Swete or of Professor Gould, but may perhaps to some extent supplement them. On textual and philological questions Dr. Swete’s book must always be consulted, and that of Dr. Gould is full of suggestion on the side of thought. Another English book which should be named is the commentary on the Synoptic Gospels in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, by the late lamented Dr. A. B. Bruce.

The present work seeks to determine the historical outcome of the earliest Gospel taken by itself. On the one hand it strives to approach to the original facts handed down by the tradition; on the other to understand those special interests of the age in which the Gospel was written which necessarily determined in some degree both its contents and its form. The writer has learned most from two German works which are perhaps too solid ever to be translated, Das Marcus-evangelium by Dr. B. Weiss, 1872, and the treatment of the Synoptic Gospels by Dr. H. J. Holtzmann in the Hand-Commentarzum Neuen Testament, first edition, 1889. But he has exercised throughout an independent judgment.

For the sake of the student who may use this work the Greek text which is adopted is given, and the principal variants are pointed out. The English version will show him how the text is understood. The commentary can be read continuously, and the reader who does not know Greek will yet, it is hoped, find the book serviceable. It is written with a profound conviction that as criticism declares the second Gospel to be the porch by which we must go in to find the Saviour as he was and is, the earnest reader of that Gospel may indeed find him there. For his teaching, it is true, we have to look elsewhere; and his figure as here disclosed is homelier and more subject to human limitations than that to which we are accustomed. But though more human it need not be less divine.

Pages v-vi.

James Denney’s Commentary on the Letters to the Thessalonians

James Denney [1856-1917], The Epistle to the Thessalonians, W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor's Bible, New Edition

James Denney’s commentary, part of Expositor’s Bible series, has long been valued by preachers. One commentary survey I looked at cautioned that it should be read in conjunction with more exegetical works.

My thanks to Book Aid for making a copy of this public domain title available for digitisation.

James Denney [1856-1917], The Epistle to the Thessalonians, W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Bible, New Edition. London: Hodder & Stoughton, n.d. Hbk. pp.404. [Click to visit the download page for this title]

Table of Contents

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians

  1. The Church of the Thessalonians
  2. The Thanksgiving
  3. The Signs of Election
  4. Conversion
  5. Apologia Pro Vita Sua
  6. Impeachment of the Jews
  7. Absense and Longing
  8. Love and Prayers
  9. Personal Purity
  10. Charity and Independence
  11. The Dead in Christ
  12. The Day of the Lord
  13. Rulers and Ruled
  14. The Standing Order of the Gospel
  15. The Spirit
  16. Conclusion

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

  1. Salutation and Thanksgiving
  2. Suffering and Glory
  3. The Man of Sin
  4. The Restraint and its Removal
  5. The Theology of Paul
  6. Mutual Intercession
  7. The Christian Worth of Labor
  8. Farewell

Chapter 1

Thessalonica, now called Saloniki, was in the first century of our era a large and flourishing city. It was situated at the north-eastern corner of the Thermaic gulf, on the line of the great Egnatian road, which formed the main connection by land between Italy and the East. It was an important commercial centre, with a mixed population of Greeks, Romans, and Jews. The Jews, who at the present day amount to some twenty thousand, were numerous enough to have a synagogue of their own; and we can infer from the Book of Acts (xvii. 4) that it was frequented by many of the better spirits among the Gentiles also. Unconsciously, and as the event too often proved, unwillingly, the Dispersion was preparing the way of the Lord.

To this city the Apostle Paul came, attended by Silas and Timothy, in the course of his second missionary journey. He had just left Philippi, dearest to his heart of all his churches; for there, more than anywhere else, the sufferings of Christ had abounded in him, and his consolations also had been abundant in Christ. He came to Thessalonica with the marks of the lictors’ rods upon his body; but to him they were the marks of Jesus; not warnings to change his path, but tokens that the Lord was taking him into fellowship with Himself, and binding him more strictly to His service. He came with the memory of his converts’ kindness warm upon his heart; conscious that, amid whatever disappointments, a welcome awaited the gospel, which admitted its messenger into the joy of his Lord. We need not wonder, then, that the Apostle kept to his custom, and in spite of the malignity of the Jews, made his way, when Sabbath came, to the synagogue of Thessalonica.

Pages 3-4