How fixed this tradition was in regard to its form is proved by the third Gospel. It was composed by a Greek, probably in the time of Domitian; and in the second part of his work, the Acts of the Apostles— besides the preface to the first—he shows us that he was familiar with the literary language of his nation and that he was an excellent master of style. But in the Gospel narrative he did not dare to abandon the traditional type: he tells his story in the same style as Mark and Matthew, with the same connexion of sentences, the same colour, nay, with many of precisely the same details; it is only the ruder words and expressions, which would offend literary taste, that are sparingly corrected. There is another respect, too, in which his Gospel strikes us as remarkable: he assures us at the beginning of it that he has “had perfect understanding of all things from the very first,” and has examined many accounts. But if we test him by his authorities, we find that he has kept in the main to Mark’s Gospel, and to a source which we also find appearing again in Matthew. These accounts both seemed to him, as a respectable chronicler, to be preferable to the crowd of others. That offers a good guarantee for them. No historian has found that it is possible or necessary to substitute any other tradition for the one which we have here.
Another point: this tradition is, apart from the story of the Passion, almost exclusively Galilean in its character. Had not the history of Jesus’ public activity been really bounded by this geographical horizon, tradition could not have so described it; for every historical narrative with an eye to effect would have represented him as working chiefly in Jerusalem. That is the account given by the fourth Gospel. That our first three evangelists almost entirely refrain from saying anything about Jerusalem arouses a good prejudice in their favour.