Synopses of Important Articles
The Biblical World
The passage is a criticism passed by Christ upon the generation to which he belonged, in respect to their treatment of John the Baptist and himself. Characteristically he has embodied his rebuke in a figure of speech, and has drawn from child life. A game is described in which children imitated first a marriage, one piping and the others dancing about him; then a funeral, one wailing, the others following mourning. Construing Christ's figure, who are represented by the children who complain to
... en who complain to their companions ? There are two views: (I) that they are Jesus and John the Baptist; (2) that they are the Jews in general. The latter view comes from a too literal adjustment of the parallels; the phrase "it is like" is simply a link by which the thing to be illustrated is loosely connected with the illustration, which is then developed as a picture with perfect freedom. Further, were not John and Jesus the innovators, who proposed the new departures, but could not get their contemporaries to join ? Is it historical to say that fickleness and an excessive disposition to change were the characteristics of the age of Jesus? An additional argument against the second view, sentimental indeed but not therefore without weight, is that it takes all the sunshine out of the picture of child life which the illustration presents, and would Jesus have been likely to do that ? By the first view nothing is lost, because all that is really brought out by the second is included; and there is everything to gain. The discussion is rather an exegetical than a practical one, as the general meaning and point of the parable are the same under any explanation. It is a little sur-. prising that Dr. Stalker (with Godet) has gone back to the old interpretation of the passage, as against many recent commentators (Lange, Meyer, Weiss, Holtzmann, Bruce, Schaff, et al.) His principal reason for doing so is to avoid certain alleged violence done the history by the more recent view, which he cites in order to refute. But the difficulty is a conjectural and not a real one. Excessive pressure is brought to bear upon the figure to make it yield historic detail. The error of literalism which Dr. Stalker decries in his first argument characterizes his second. The figure of the parable introduces us to children at play in the streets with their customary youthful games of mimicry. Some wish to have a mock marriage, but their fellows refuse to join in their gayety; then they propose a mock funeral, but still they will not respond. In fact, they are childish, insincere and unreasonable. And just so, says Jesus, are the men of this generation. Nothing which is genuinely religious will suit them, because they do not wish to be suited. If Jesus and John have to be identified either with the children who propose the games or with those who refuse to play, the manner 298 This content downloaded from 138.073.