78 PSYCHOTHERAPY : SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS chap.
There is now general agreement that practically all those parts of the Gospels which immediately affect our knowledge of Jesus were written within the period when His life and words were a living memory. A valuable estimate of the value of the Gospels is given by Dr. Major,144 who says : 'It must not be understood . . . that every portion of the Gospels is historical ; that there are no mythical accretions ; that there are no misrepresentations or misunderstandings or even exaggerations and inventions on the part of the Evangelists. What we desire to suggest is, that although in large measure dependent upon oral traditions, and although directed to an apologetic end, yet the Gospels are seen, is the result of critical study, to contain large historical dements/ They are undoubtedly superior to the documents from which we gain our knowledge of Buddha, for example.
We may well believe that the writers of the Gospels were honest and truth-loving men, but they were not scientific historians, nor did they make any pretension to be such. Whether any of them were eye-witnesses of what they describe is doubtful; but they very obviously tell the same story; each in accordance with his particular point of view and each adopting the approach dictated by his own training and mentality. Thus, although we do not possess a systematic, detailed biography of Jesus, we have a peculiarly vivid record of the response His life evoked in the minds of His early followers after some years of reflection upon their experience of Him.
The Fourth Gospel is unique and the problems connected with it are still far from solution. The growing consensus of critical opinion is that it contains sound historical traditions and, in some respects, even corrects the other three Gospels but that, taken as a whole, it is