Sixty years ago David Friedrich Strauss thought that he had almost entirely destroyed the historical credibility not only of the fourth but also of the first three Gospels as well. The historical criticism of two generations has succeeded in restoring that credibility in its main outlines. These Gospels are not. it is true, historical works any more than the fourth; they were not written with the simple object of giving the facts as they were; they are books composed for the work of evangelisation. Their purpose is to awaken a belief in Jesus Christ’s person and mission; and the purpose is served by the description of his deeds and discourses, as well as by the references to the Old Testament. Nevertheless they are not altogether useless as sources of history, more especially as the object with which they were written is not supplied from without, but coincides in part with what Jesus intended. But such other great leading purposes as have been ascribed to the evangelists have been one and all shown to lack any foundation, although with each individual evangelist many secondary purposes may have come into play. The Gospels are not “party tracts”; neither are they writings which as yet bear the radical impress of the Greek spirit. In their essential substance they belong to the first, the Jewish, epoch of Christianity, that brief epoch which may be denoted as the palseontological. That we possess any reports dating from that time, even though, as is obvious in the first and third Gospel, the setting and the composition are by another hand, is one of those historical arrangements for which we cannot be too thankful. Criticism to- day universally recognises the unique character of the Gospels. What especially marks them off from all subsequent literature is the way in which they state their facts. This species of literary art, which took shape partly by analogy with the didactic narratives of the Jews, and partly from catechetical necessities—this simple and impressive form of exposition was, even a few decades later, no longer capable of exact reproduction. From the time that the Gospel was transferred to the broad ground of the Greco-Roman world it appropriated the literary forms of the Greeks, and the style of the evangelists was then felt to be something strange but sublime. When all is said, the Greek language lies upon these writings only like a diaphanous veil, and it requires hardly any effort to retranslate their contents into Hebrew or Aramaic. That the tradition here presented to us is, in the main, at first hand is obvious.