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discussions on the gospels the existence of collections of sayings, or logia, had been recognised, yet they remained rather as a literary abstraction. The finding, in recent years, of the fragments of actual collections of logia1 has changed our mental atmosphere and realisation of the subject, though it has not added to the material for solving the questions. It is one thing to read of the existence of logia, or sayings, in some ancient writer or in modern discussions, but it gives quite a different sense of the actualities of history to see the papyrus leaf of sayings. And when we realise that this is only one leaf out of a volume of sayings, and that there may have been only one or two copyings between that and the notes which were made by the disciples themselves, we seem to have come into living contact with the original facts.
The sight of such material, in a far less literary setting than we see it in the gospels, at once raises a new field of questions. Between the logia and a gospel there is a difference like that between a note-book and a treatise.
1 New Sayings of Jesus, by B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt,
The logia are like a loose handful of gems from which a rich piece of jewellery may be constructed, with its gradations and contrasts. The setting of surrounding narrative, the linking of ideas, and the balancing of effects are the work of the evangelists incorporating the materials. We pause at many enquiries. How early were such logia written down? Were they circulated before the gospels? How widely were they known? How far were they incorporated in the gospels? How were they used for extracts? Were whole documents taken as they stood, or were they all broken up and reset by the writers? The growth of the gospels is brought vividly before the historic imagination when we see a portion of the working material in our hands for the first time.
2. The Habit of Writing.
There has been a very general impression that writing was in all ancient times a special accomplishment, an idea which is based on the general illiteracy of Europe down to a century ago. But we now realise that in the Roman age, and in earlier times in the East,
writing was familiar to the lower classes. Even from early Babylonia we see that ordinary tradespeople-men and womenkept their own accounts and correspondence. The papyri of Roman age found in recent years in Egypt are commonly of the most trivial character, like present notes and bills. The roughest scrawled list of daily marketing by a cook, full of mis-spellings, shews that writing was a matter of common knowledge, and not of precise education. The blundering, crabbed hand of a petition of some peasants shews that they could read and write without needing to go to a professional scribe. Their very faults are evidence that the use of the pen was not at all limited to what we should call an educated class.
We should remember how early in the gospel narrative we have recorded, by all three synoptics, the call of Matthew, or Levi, a taxgatherer. He must have spent his life down to that time in writing tax-receipts, those documents which have been preserved by the thousand on the potsherds of Egypt. He had lived with a pen in his hand most of the day; and can it then be supposed that when he left
his business for what he saw to be a far higher interest, his habit of writing would be dropped? See what was going on in that century. Any teacher who had a following, was accompanied by a friend who recorded his sayings. Apollonios the wanderer had his Damis, and the slave Epictetus had his Arrian. It would be contrary to all we know if we were wilfully to imagine that when men gave their lives up to the new Way their great pre-occupation was not thought worth a memorandum.
Thus we see that the known historical -conditions of the age, the generally recorded presence of at least one ready scribe, the fact of many collections of sayings having early come into circulation, all compel us to look on the period of the ministry of Jesus and of the early Church in Jerusalem as a time of notemaking and compiling.
3. Early Need of Gospels.
When we observe the date at which the various churches were springing up-at Antioch in 42 A.D., at Alexandria probably earlier, in Asia Minor before 50 A.D., and in
Greece soon after-it is impossible to suppose that they were left at that time without a written account of the principal events and teaching which they were wishing to follow. Some generally accepted gospels must have been already in circulation before 60 A.D. The mass of briefer records and logia, which the habits and culture of that age would naturally produce, must have been welded together within ten or twenty years by the external necessities.
The historical conditions of continual accretion and incorporation of documents, during perhaps a generation, have been too generally ignored. Yet we cannot doubt that such was the course of growth when we look at the logia. Those collections of brief sayings could hardly have come into existence if full narratives, and sufficient standards of information in the gospels, were already circulating. They belong essentially to a preparatory age, when records were in course of compilation. But, once written out, they naturally survived side by side with the gospels, which had only used a portion of their material.
Some familiarity with the history of other