Luke the Literary Artist.
There is nothing to alter in Mr. Shaw's account of Luke. It may be helpful, however, to add that many biblical scholars surmise that Luke was a Greek physician. This Gospel is in fact very suggestive of the Greek romances of the decadence. The importance of this characterization of Luke is that one would justifiably reprimand even a servant girl who attached any historical value to such a work. The gospel was evidently retained because of its appeal to the Greek colonists of Asia Minor, where Christianity had made tremendous strides. We can agree with the ordinary scholar that Matthew primarily intended to convince Jews that Jesus was the Messiah who they had been expecting. Matthew starts from the crack of the pistol: "The Book of the Generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." Luke has to explain to his readers in Chapter I, verse 5, that Herod was king of Judaea, and when he comes to genealogy does not stop at Abraham, but ends (III, 38) "which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." We also note that Luke's Gospel is addressed by name to a certain Theophilus, evidently a Greek.
The Charm of Luke's Narrative.
Mr. Shaw might have emphasized even more than he does the extravagance of Luke's imagination. Not content with a miraculous birth for Jesus, he plagiarizes the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis (chapters XVII and XXI) in order to make a miracle out of the birth of John the Baptist! Mr. Shaw explains with admirable conciseness and clarity the difference in the characterization of Jesus given by Luke, but he does not tell his readers the reason, which is simply that given above, that it was addressed to a different audience.
This disposes of the cavil of the freethinker about 'conflicting gospels', but it also disposes of the claim of the orthodox as to inspiration. It is perfectly comprehensible that a life of the Kaiser written by the court historian at Potsdam should differ markedly from that compiled in the office of the "Daily Mail". But if an argument of this sort is advanced to explain discrepancies, the canon of truth has been abrogated and that of expediency put in its place. When we find a cure-all advertising in the 'Daily Cough-drop' that will cure consumption, and in the "Strand Mercury" that it will cure specific disease, sensible people begin to doubt whether it will cure anything at all. In the most favourable case, they pay no heed to the advertisement, but inquire into the matter by means of analysis and clinical experiment. It is therefore absolutely unsafe for the orthodox to bring forward the explanation given above for the contradiction in the gospel narrative.
The Touch of Parisian Romance
If for 'Parisian' Mr. Shaw had written 'Greek' there would be a truer characterization. There is really nothing else to be said. But Luke has no sense of anything at all except his art, and art of any kind always bears the seed of mysticism within it. It is extraordinarily amusing to find James Thomson in the "City of Dreadful Night" indulging in qabalistic speculations in the second section of that magnificent poem, the greatest of its kind that was ever written.
We should like, however, to add one remark, Mr. Shaw here admits that Luke can record a mystical view of the kingdom, yet still thinks of it as entirely material. What then becomes of his argument about the date of Matthew's Gospel?