صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

their respective dependencies, was deemed higher in rank than any other single city. From the be Yet the epistles to the Galatians, Corinthians, and some others, were certainly, every one of them, written before that to the Romans, the epistle to the Galatians being probably the earliest of all St Paul's epistles that are now extant (a)."

That it was some such principle as this, and not the order of time in which the Gospels were written, that directed their arrangement when collected into one volume, may be inferred from the fact, that they are differently arranged in different manuscripts. "The Latin church arranged them thus,-Matthew, John, Luke, Mark; and their arrangement is observed, not only in the old Latin manuscripts, but likewise in the Codex Bezæ (b)," one of the most ancient and valuable Greek manuscripts extant. From the order in which the Gospels are generally published, nothing therefore can be inferred with certainty respecting the priority of any one of them to the others.

The testimony of the ancients, were it unanimous and sufficiently early, would indeed be conclusive; but it is far from unanimous. The reports of the different writers have been collected with great industry by Lardner (c), to whom I therefore refer; and it will be seen, from a comparison of these reports, that the only points in which they seem to be all agreed, are, that St Matthew and St Luke wrote before St Mark and St John, and that the former wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. When I say that in these points they seem to be all agreed, I allude only to those who may be considered as the original reporters-such as Papias, Irenæus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Origen; for those who succeeded them have added each some opinion of his own, though nothing, I think, to contradict the assertion of Clemens, that the evangelists, who give the different genealogies of our Lord, wrote their Gospels before the other two. Whether St Matthew or St Luke wrote first, must therefore be decided, if it can be decided at all, by the internal evidence afforded by their two Gospels themselves; and about the force of that evidence, modern divines of the greatest eminence have differed in opinion. Calvin, Beza, Gomarus the antagonist of Arminius, Lardner, Michaelis, Dr Macknight of Edinburgh, and of late Mr Dunster ‡, seem all to have been decidedly of opinion that St Luke wrote before St Matthew; but by much the most general opinion is, I believe, that St Matthew was the first writer of a Gospel. Of those who have lately defended this opinion, the two most eminent writers are, Dr Owen, in his Observations on the Four Gospels; and Dr Townson, in his Discourses on the Four Gospels,-a work unquestionably of very great merit, and, according to the biographer of the author, the chief inducement which led the university of Oxford to confer on him the degree of doctor in divinity by diploma. In that work therefore we may reasonably look for the best arguments by which the common opinion has hitherto been supported; but I cannot say that the arguments of Dr Townson have convinced me. He contends not only that the Gospel by St Matthew was written the first of the four, but treading in the footsteps of Theophylact, and some others, he is of opinion that it was written and published about eight years after our Lord's ascension. So early a date, however, is at variance with the chief part of that external evidence, for the support of which the learned author professes to have brought forward what he considers as internal proofs tur

(a) Marsh's Michaelis, vol. iv.

(b) ibid. vol. iii. chap. 1. Note 1. by the Editor. (c) History of the Apostles and Evangelists.

The reverend Charles Dunster, M. A. rector of Petworth in Sussex, who has published four tracts on the subject, which have by no means attracted the attention, to which they are well entitled from every Biblical scholar. For this neglect two reasons may be assigned. The modest author, in every tract, proclaims himself to be a very inferior Greek scholar, and in comparison of those with whom he differs in

opinion, a mere sciolist in criticism; and the public,
as usual in such cases, appears to have taken him at
his word; though every page, in which that word ap.
pears, shews that his learning and industry are inte
rior only to his modesty. The second reason to
which I attribute the general neglect of the tracts, is
more solid; for it must be admittted that Mr Dun-
ster has paid very little regard to lucidus ordo in wri-
ting, appearing to have committed his thoughts to pa-
per just as they arose in his own mind,

ginning of the

[ocr errors]

Matth. ix. 8.

Mark ii. 23.
Luke vi 1.

A. M. 4034,
Ann. Dom.

&c. or 5439.

30, &c.

Vulg. Er. 28.

nished by the Gospels themselves; for Irenæus says expressly, that St Matthew published his Hebrew Gospel" while St Paul and St Peter were preaching at Rome-Toù Пéτço καὶ τοῦ Παῦλοῦ ἐν Ῥώμη ευαγγελίζομενων ;” and this could not be before the year 63 of our era *. Dr Townson, however, reasons in behalf of the early date of St Matthew's gospel in the following manner.

"It was expedient for many reasons that a written history of Christ should appear, without much delay after his ascension. The apostles, therefore, as their great caution and reserve lead us to infer, determined, that one of their body, and for the present one only, should undertake and publish such a work; a work appealing to a multitude of living witnesses for many of its facts, and attested by the chosen witnesses in all its parts; and therefore fit to be recommended to their followers and converts as a standard of truth, by which the credibility of other relations might be examined and proved. This it was easy to preserve from interpolations or corruptions; since copies of it, taken by believers for their use, might be verified by the original remaining with the central church in Jerusalem. And for the sake of a like advantage, I apprehend the other Gospels were afterwards published in cities of great resort, and in which Christian churches, the depositories of the authentic manuscripts, were well established (a).”

Of the many reasons which made it, in the opinion of the excellent author, expedient that a history of Christ should be written early, and written by an apostle, he states ten in the succeeding section; but they are all reasons of mere expediency or fitness, and some of them such as will hardly appear expedient to men who have no hypothesis to support. Among them he has assigned no reason why the apostles determined that ST MATTHEW Should perform this great work in preference to PETER, JAMES, and JOHN, who were eye-witnesses of several important events in the life of our blessed Lord at which Matthew was not present. He has likewise neglected to account for St Luke's thinking it necessary, or at least expedient, to write himself a Gospel for the use of Theophilus, who, according to this hypothesis, might have tried the truth of the narratives then in circulation, by a superior standard to any which an inferior minister of the Gospel could furnish. If the Gospel by St Matthew was written at so early a period by the command of the whole college of the apostles, there seems to have been no occasion for St Luke's writing at all, for the purpose which he assigns in the address of his own Gospel to Theophilus, to whom it would have been his duty to send St Matthew's Gospel, that his friend and patron" might know the certainty of those things in which he had been instructed." At any rate, we may be sure that if St Luke had known any thing of a Gospel written by one apostle at the command of the whole college, and for the purpose which Dr Townson assigns, he would have addressed Theophilus in language very different from that which he has employed. Let me add too, that as many reasons, at least equally plausible, have been assigned by Lardner, Michaelis, Dr Marsh, and Mr Dunster, for the expediency of delaying to publish a written Gospel, till the period at which they suppose the three first Gospels to have been published. I forbear to state those reasons, because I most heartily adopt the following censure passed by Mr Churton on all such arguments founded on the supposed expediency of the Divine conduct in the administration whether of nature or of grace.

"Learned and ingenious men, says this respectable writer (b), frame to themselves

* See Marsh's Michaelis, vol. iii. and Hales's Analysis of Chronology, vol. 2d. page 676, &c. Dr Hales is of opinion, that St Matthew's Gospel in Greek was the original, and the Hebrew Gospel mentioned by the fathers a translation from it; but in this opinion I believe the learned analyst to be singular. That the Greek Gospel by St Matthew is an original production and no translation, I am perfect

ly satisfied; but that his Hebrew Gospel, mentioned by the fathers, was likewise original, seems to me in the highest degree probable for reasons to be stated by and bye.

(a) Townson's Works, vol. i. Discourse iii. sect. 5. (b) Introduction to the Works of Dr Townson,

p. 94.

Gospels to

Luke vi. 1.

theories of what a Gospel should contain, [when it should be published], where it should From the be begin, and where it should end; and then they pronounce, concerning the order and ginning of the design of the existing Gospels, as they agree or disagree with those abstract rules and Matth ix. 8. canons of their own devising. But this surely is a very false criterion. The ways of Mark ii. 23. God are not as man's ways; and although those that search with meekness of understanding (for to such especially mysteries are revealed') may generally discover plain marks of wisdom, in the whole progress and several parts of Divine revelation; yet the manifestations which have been made, and the things which have been done, have very seldom been such as the wit of man would antecedently have concluded to be reasonable and proper."

[ocr errors]

These observations are just, and display the candour of him by whom they were made; for they are obviously and indisputably as applicable to the theory of Dr Townson, and the manner in which it is supported, as to any other theory which the author may have had more immediately in his eye. Let us therefore search in the Gospels themselves, and not in our own imaginations, for some mark or fact, if we can find it, tending to ascertain the order in which they were published. Now there are certainly two passages in St Matthew's Gospel, which were long ago pointed out by Dr Lardner as furnishing a complete proof, that they could not have been written at a period so early as eight or even fifteen years after the ascension.


Giving an account of the remorse of Judas, and his returning the thirty pieces of silver, St Matthew says (a) that "the chief priests took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called the field of blood unto this day." Again, after informing us (b) that the chief priests and elders bribed the Roman soldiers to say that, while they slept on their post at the tomb of Jesus, his disciples came by night and stole his body, the evangelist adds,—" and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day." It is justly observed by Lardner, that the phrase until this day does not ascertain the precise length of time intervening between the fact recorded and the period of recording it; but surely, if we are to interpret this phrase in the New Testament according to the sense in which it is universally understood in the Old-a mode of interpretation which the biographer of Dr Townson strongly recommends by his own practice—it must in both places either be an interpolation, which has never been suspected, or imply that a much longer period than eight or even fifteen years had intervened between the resurrection of Christ and the writing of St Matthew's Greek Gospel.

If to this fact we add what is obviously implied in the preface to the Gospel by St Luke, no doubt, I think, can remain in our minds, but that the period at which St Matthew's Gospel was written, was as late, if the testimony of Irenæus be of any weight, as Michaelis and Dr Hales have placed it St Luke speaks expressly of many who had undertaken to set forth in order a declaration of those things which were firm, ly believed and had certainly been done among the Christians; but the word which he employs unquestionably implies, that the undertakers had so far failed, as to render his own writing necessary for the satisfaction of Theophilus. The word is initignar, which, according to Schleusner, occurs but thrice in the New Testament :-Luke i. 1. Acts ix. 29. xix. 18; and as all these texts were written by the same author, it is surely reasonable to suppose, that the verb ixupiw is in them used in the same sense.

* Some of the ancients supposed, I forget on what ground, that St Matthew wrote his Gospel fifteen or sixteen years after the ascension; and those who believe that he did not write till thirty or thirty-two years after that event, hence infer, that the supposed expediency of an early written Gospel induced them first to divide the real time that elapsed between the

But in

[blocks in formation]

Ann. Dom.

30, &c.

A. M. 4034. the two places in the Acts of the apostles, it unquestionably implies unsuccessful at&c. or 5439. tempts; for though the Grecians " went about to slay St Paul-ixtipour œútòr æveneïr”they were prevented from carrying their design into execution by the care of the breVulg. Er. 28. thren, who brought the apostle from Jerusalem to Cesarea, and thence sent him to TarAnd when the vagabond Jewish exorcists "took upon them-ixtipnar -- to adjure an evil spirit by that Jesus (Tòv 'Ingov) whom Paul preached," they were so far from succeeding in their enterprise, that the man possessed" leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded *"


I know it is said, and it is true, that St Luke passeth no direct censure upon those who had attempted to write a regular narrative of those things which had been done or finished among the Christians, and were by them firmly believed; and I know that it is likewise said that ixup is employed to express the making of an attempt, whether it be crowned with success or not; and for any thing that I know to the contrary, this may likewise be true, though all the examples in the Lexicons which I have consulted, I have found in the works in my possession from which they were taken, to be of attempts either unsuccessful or made by no competent authority. Let me add, in the words of Dr Marsh, that " to the accounts of those many, who had written before him, St Luke must certainly have had some objection to make, for no man would argue thus-Since several persons have delivered accounts of Christ, on which perfect reliance may be placed, I have likewise thought proper to write the history of Christ! We must conclude therefore, that his intention was to correct the inaccuracies of the accounts which were then in circulation, and to deliver to Theophilus a true and genuine document, in order to silence idle stories, which might have prejudiced Theophilus against the Christian religion." At any rate, it is indisputable that in two, out of the three instances in which he employs the verb xpia, it is to signify the making of unsuccessful attempts; and it is surely improbable that so great a master of the Greek language as he is confessed to have been, would have expressed by that word, St Matthew's or St Mark's attempts to write a history of the doctrines and miracles of their Divine master. It seems therefore to be unquestionable, that St Luke, when addressing Theophilus, had never heard of either of their Gospels; and yet it is inconceivable, that St Matthew's should not have reached either him or St Paul in the long period of more than twenty years, if it had been written, as Dr Townson supposes, by the command of the whole college of apostles to be the standard of truth, by which the credibility of all other relations of the same things might be examined and proved.

The reader will observe that this argument does not prove St Luke's Gospel to have been written before St Matthew's. It proves only that St Luke had never seen St Matthew's or St Mark's Gospel; and that if these were written before his, the interval of time must have been very short That St Luke's was the first published Gospel→→→→ or at least that it was published before the Greek Gospel of St Matthew, I am strongly inclined to believe; but if it has been proved that St Luke did not copy from St Matthew (for that an apostle should copy from an inferior evangelist is too absurd to be supposed), I consider it as a question of no importance which of them was the earliest writer. Those who think otherwise, may consult Lardner's History of the Apostles and Evangelists, with Churton's edition of Townson's Discourses on the four Gospels on the one hand, and Dr Macknight's Harmony of the Gospels, with Dunster's Tracts on St Luke's Gospel on the other.

But if St Luke never saw the Gospels of St Matthew and St Mark, and was not even a disciple of Christ, having been converted, as is generally supposed, by St Paul, what better opportunities had he of perfectly understanding all things from the very

* The word is used in the same sense of making unsuccessful attempts in Esther ix. 25. and 2 Macc. vii. 19.

Gospels to

Matth. ix. 8.

first, than those who had taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those From the bethings which had been certainly accomplished among the Christians, and were firmly beginning of the lieved by them? He admits that the writers to whom he alludes, derived the materials of their narratives from those "who, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses of the life, miracles, death, and resurrection of our Blessed Lord, and likewise the appointed ministers of his word;" and in the opinion of many eminent critics, he seems to say that he derived the substance of his own narrative from no other source.

That St Luke was not an apostle is unquestionable; and it cannot be denied that, in the opinion of the greater number of the ancients, whose writings have come down to us, he was not even a personal disciple of Christ. This however was not the opinion of all the ancients. Epiphanius certainly, and Origen, as quoted by Dr Whitby (a), believed him to have been not only a disciple, but also one of the seventy whom "the Lord sent two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." Many others were of the same opinion; but as they are not agreed among themselves, I refer the reader to Lardner's History of the Apostles and Evangelists, in which their different reports are collected with the learned author's usual candour.

From the earliest of these reports, which probably laid the foundation of many which follow, it appears that the opinion of St Luke's not being a disciple of Christ, was drawn by inference from his own words in his address to Theophilus. "The apostles, says Irenæus, envying none, delivered plainly to all the things which they had learned from the Lord. So likewise Luke, envying no man, has delivered to us what he learned from them, as he says;-Even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word ‡.

It is evident from this passage, if the Latin translation can be depended on ‡2, that Irenæus derived his opinion-not from Polycarp or Papias, or from any general tradition of the church, but from the words of St Luke himself, which it is certainly possible that even he may have misunderstood. These words have indeed been taken in the same sense by many eminent scholars among the moderns; but however presumptuous I may be thought, I cannot help, in opposition even to such great authorities, agreeing with Dr Whitby, that the words of the evangelist, far from affording ground for the inference which has been drawn from them, "plead powerfully for St Luke's personal knowledge, or such knowledge as the apostles themselves possessed, of all the things which he has recorded in his Gospel." He says indeed, that "others had undertaken to set forth in order a narrative of all those things which are most surely believed,-or rather, which have assuredly been performed or accomplished (7πngopognuérwr) (b) among us, even as they delivered them to us, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses (of the things done) and appointed ministers of the Word (preached) as αpédorar nuïr oi an' asxñs αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι τοῦ λόγου ; but it is evident, as we have already seen, that he thought those writers unequal to the task which they had undertaken. They were probably well-meaning, pious, and zealous men, who had diligently attended to the preaching of the apostles, taken notes of their discourses, and from these notes written memoirs of the life, miracles, and doctrines of our Saviour; for such were beyond all question,

(a) Preface to St Luke's Gospel.

Apostoli simpliciter nemini invidentes quæ didicerant ipsi a Domino hæc omnibus tradebant. Sic igitur et Lucas nemini invidens, ea quæ ab eis didicerat, tradidit nobis, sicut ipse testatur dicens; Quemadmodum tradiderunt nobis qui ab initio contemplatores et ministri fuerunt verbi. Adver. H. lib. 3. cap.14. n. 2. As the original work is lost, we have no means VOL. III.


of ascertaining the fidelity of the translation, which,
in the opinion of Cave, was made about the end of
the fourth century. The same learned author, cha-
racterising the translation, says Vetusta satis, sed
barbara imprimis, difficilis et salebrosa.

(6) See Whitby on the place, Campbell's translation
of the Gospels, and Parkhust's Lexicon on the word

[ocr errors]


« السابقةمتابعة »