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Every age, even those that seem at the first approach to be stationary, turns out to be transitional when we get to know more about it. Primitive societies are transformed by contacts and war. The China once conceived as immemorial and unchanging reveals itself as a long series of revolutions and wars. The apparent immobility of the medieval church becomes a succession of dissolving views; and perhaps the only generalization that may be true about this continual movement is that it becomes more swift and more hazardous as it proceeds, like the rapids of a great river hurrying to its fall. For there is something about the crisis in which we are at present involved which makes it at once more dangerous and more promising than those which have preceded. On the one hand, ideas are more powerful and more solvent; on the other-and this is a new fact in history the power put at our disposal by science opens possibilities, both of re-construction and ruin, such as have never before been at our command. The War has made the position clear to all who care about society, and even men of science are beginning at last, though slowly and sporadically, to peep out of their specialisms and consider, with apprehension and alarm, whither we are being carried by these new forces which we have not yet learned to control.
To write about the Gospels, explaining their origin and transmission, within the compass of an article in ANTIQUITisY o nly possible by expounding the writer's own views on this much discussed and in many parts highly controversial subject in a somewhat peremptory and dogmatic fashion. I therefore make my apologies beforehand to such of my readers as may hold other views, which the inevitable limits of space make it for me impossible to discuss. The main problems I have to consider are : (I) how did the Gospels come to be written, (2) in what ways were they preserved, and (3) what are the chief texts actually extant ?
It is extremely difficult to eradicate erroneous popular beliefs. Among such should be numbered the tendency hastily to attribute prehistoric hill-forts either to the Stone Age or to the Romans, most of such forts having in all probability been reared by the people of the Early Iron Age. The rapid progress of British prehistoric archaeology during the last two decades has shown this clearly, but it has also shown that the popular belief in the existence of neolithic camps is justified, though not in the specific instances that were expected.
So little has been published about the prehistoric remains of Malta and Gozo that archaeologically the islands are hardly known. Visitors are numerous, but attention is usually concentrated upon Hajar Kim or some other megalithic building to the exclusion of other interesting remains. Thus a meagre impression is usually obtained of the profusion of neolithic relics which still exist. Even standard works on archaeology, treating of the early periods of the Mediterranean civilization, give only a small space, if any, to Maltese monuments.
It is with great diffidence that I venture to make a few criticisms upon certain aspects of Mr R. G. Collingwood's most suggestive paper in the September number of ANTIQUITY on 'Town and Country in Roman Britain'. He is an expert, I am an amateur; he has probably forgotten more about Roman Britain than I ever knew; but the points that I desire to discuss are matters of general inference rather than of expert knowledge.
But, after all, one guess is as bad as another. Mr Collingwood guesses half a million. Mr Randall guesses . . . but on re-reading Mr Randall I find that he doesn't guess at all. He passes lightly from persuasion to persuasion and ends with x. Indeed, he loses interest in the statistical problem and concerns himself mainly with the Higher griculture or, as he would phrase it, the Agriculture of the Uplands. He bravely ends, however, with Twelve Points which he gracefully provides as 'a target for counter-attack'.