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precise time of their accomplishment. He it was, if the records of his Gospel be true, who gave to this blind and obstinate nation the certain assurances of its downfal and ruin: he it was who so accurately and minutely described the overthrow of their City and Temple; and depicted the excessive sorrows to which they were so soon to be reduced. And that such were indeed the predictions of Christ himself, no doubt can be reasonably entertained; for upon a slight examination of the authenticity of the Gospels, we immediately arrive at proofs sufficient to assure us that the prophecies ascribed to Jesus Christ were both delivered by him, and recorded by the Evangelists, previous to the time to which they refer.
The Gospel of Saint Matthew is generally acknowledged, and commonly ranked as first in time and order among the writings of the Evangelists; and although the exact date of it is much disputed, yet most, if not all authorities agree in maintaining, that it was published at Jerusalem for the instruction of the Jews, before the disciples had left Judea to convert the Gentile world.1
St. Mark is placed by Irenæus, Augustin, Origen, Jerome, and Comas of Alexandria, next in order to St. Matthew; whose Gospel they state to have been written at Rome for the Jews and Gentiles there, under the immediate superintendence and direction of St. Peter, who
1 First of all Matthew the Publican, surnamed Levi, published a Gospel in Judea in the Hebrew (Chaldee) Language, principally for the use of the Jewish Converts to Christianity.
St. Jerome in Præf. Comment. in Matt.
See also Euseb. Ecc. Hist. L. 6. c. 25.
Of the various dates assigned to it, the earliest is A. D. 38, and the latest A. D. 63.
who delivered it to the Jewish Church confirmed by his own authority.1
"The Third Gospel," says Origen, "is that accord"ing to Luke commended by St. Paul;" it was written (according to Michaelis, in Palestine)" to correct the in
accuracies of the accounts, which were then in circu"lation, and to deliver to Theophilus a true and ge"nuine document, in order to silence several idle stories, "which might have prejudiced him against the Chris"tian Religion."2
1 St. Mark accompanied St. Peter (1 Pet. v. 13) and was so highly esteemed by him as to be called his son, in the same manner as Timothy is thus called by St. Paul.
Marsh's Michaelis vol. iv. ch. v. sec r. p. 203. Clemens Alexandrinus mentions in the 6th book of his Hypotypos, that "St. Mark wrote his Gospel at the request of some Christians at Rome: and "that when Peter heard this he expressed his satisfaction at the desire of “knowledge among the Roman Christians, and ordered the Gospel of St. "Mark to be thenceforward read in the Churches."
"Marcus discipulus et interpres Petri, juxta quod Petrum referentem "audierat, rogatus Romæ a fratribus, breve scripsit Evangelium; quod quum Petrus audisset, probavit et Ecclesiis legendum sua auctoritate "edidit, sicut Clemens scribit."
Jerome's Treatise on Illustrious Men, c. viii.
Eusebius asserts the same H. E. L. 2. c. 15.
See Marsh's Michaelis ch. v. sec. 1, vol. iv. ch. v. sec. 2, p. 208.
"The Gospel of St. Mark was ratified by St. Peter."
Papius apud Euseb. H. E. 1. 2. c. 15. Michaelis asserts that the following verse from 2 Pet. 1, 15, refers to this Gospel." Moreover I (Peter) will endeavour that ye may be able after my "decease to have these things always in remembrance."
Marsh's Michaelis vol. 1. chap. iii. sec. 3, page 91.
2 See Marsh's Michaelis vol iv. ch. vi. sec. 7 and 8, p. 266, 267. "The ancient Church from the earliest ages has received the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke as canonical. If this Church had not heard from the Apostles, that the writings of their assistants were divine, those writings would not have been received in the sacred Canon; and if they had not been in the Canon at the end of the first century, they would not have been received in the second and following centuries so generally and without contradiction."
Ibid vol. i. ch. iii, sec. 3, p. 92 and 93,
St. Luke's Gospel was written before the Acts of the Apostles, as is evident from the beginning of the latter. "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of "all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the "day in which he was taken up," and this book concludes with St. Paul's having resided two years at Rome (xxviii. 30), from which circumstance it seems evident that it was written shortly after that event.
"All that we can affirm with certainty is, that St. "Luke wrote his Gospel before the Acts of the Apostles, "and that the Acts of the Apostles were not written "before the end of the second year of St. Paul's impri"sonment. As it appears then, that these three Gospels were written in the time of Peter and Paul, who according to the testimony of the Fathers sanctioned the latter two; it consequently follows, that they must have been published previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, as both these Apostles died before the accomplishment of that awful event: but independent of these considerations, it must also be allowed, that their
1 Marsh's Michaelis vol. iv. ch. vi. sec. E, page 242.
2 It was in the first general persecution of the Christians at Rome under Nero A. D. 67, that the ancients with one voice agree that St. Paul was put to death. That St. Peter was also a sufferer under the same persecution, is certain, both from written authority and in compliance with the prediction of Christ. (John xxi. 18.-Acts ix. 16.) Sulpicius speaking of this persecution adds, "At that time Paul and Peter were condemned to death, the former was beheaded, Peter was crucified.-" Tum Paulus ac "Petrus capitis damnati; quorum uni cervix gladio desecta, Petrus in
crucem sublatus est." (Sulp. Sever. Hist. 2. xli. 29.) But as a further proof that Peter's death happened before the destruction of Jerusalem, we have only to refer to his second Epistle, which we shall find to have been written with an express view to prepare them to whom it is addressed to expect and earnestly to desire the coming of the day of the Lord," lest scoffers "come in the last days saying, where is the promise of his coming? 2 Pet. iii. 3,
their internal character is such, as clearly proves them to have been written by men who actually lived at the time here supposed,1
There are peculiarities in these Gospels not to be found in that of St. John (which was written at Ephesus after the Destruction; as a supplement to confirm and establish the former,) which evidently refer to the Jews and their City as they were then existing, and which, as Macknight has observed, shew "that this "manner of writing every reader must be sensible John "would not have made use of, had he composed his "Gospel for the use of the Jews, or published it in "Judea: on the other hand the three Evangelists would hardly have written in the manner they have done, "had they originally designed their works for the Gentiles, or published them out of Judea;" so that it is impossible to pretend that these predictions could have been written after the time of their fulfilment:
1 For a particular and learned investigation of the internal evidence of genuineness and authenticity in the books of the New Testament, see Dr. Maltby's Illustration of the truth of the Christian Religion.
2 If evidence were wanted to prove the circumstance of John's Gospel having been written subsequently to those of the other Evangelists; this minute, but not unimportant observation might be made. The three first Evangelists, when speaking of the apprehension of Jesus and his seizure by the servants of the High Priest, respectively mention that one of them had his right ear cut off by the sword of a Disciple whose name is not specified: but John tells us plainly, and without reserve, that it was Peter whose zeal carried him thus to defend his Lord: and evidently for this reason: that at the time the former Gospels were published, Peter was alive, and the knowledge of this event might have brought him into some difficulty with those who espoused the cause of the servant; but when John wrote, Peter had been some time dead, and therefore no mischief could happen from the development.
See Marsh's Michaelis vol. iv. ch. vii. sec. x. p. 391,
3 Harmony of the Gospels. Obs. 7. seç. 3.
nor could they have been interpolated after the event, because our Saviour not only foretold the destruction of the City of the Jews, but also the continuance of that desolation; for "Jerusalem," saith he, "shall be trodden "down of the Gentiles, till the time of the Gentiles be "fulfilled;" a prophecy which has long been, and still continues to be accomplished in these our present days; for the Jews have hitherto attempted in vain to collect themselves from the various quarters of the world to form a separate and independent Nation. Moreover, these predictions are frequently interspersed throughout the Gospels, as Parables, or subjects of instruction casually introduced, and carry with them nothing like an air of deceit; whereas had they been introduced after the Events to which they refer, there would have been something artificial in them which would have led to an early detection of the fraud.
Having then established the truth and certainty of the predictions of our Saviour respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, it is necessary, in the next place, to shew, that the history of their fulfilment is founded upon such evidence and authority as can admit of no reasonable doubt, either as to its correctness or validity. Josephus, the Author of it, by birth a Hebrew of Jerusalem, and a Priest, was descended on the father's side from the Asmonean family, which for a length of time
1 He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen. Matt. xxi. 41.
And when the King heard thereof he was wroth, and he sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers and burnt up their city. Matt. xxii. 7. Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish. Luke xiii. 5.
And if thou bear fruit, well; and if not, after that thou shalt be cut down. Luke xiii. 9.
Also Matt. iii. 10, and other places.