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That the first three gospels were published before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the year of the christian epoch LXX.
CONCERNING this I transcribe below a very good argument of Le Clerc, from his dissertation upon the four evangelists.
The Jewish war began, according to Josephus, in the month of May, in the 66th year of the christian epoch, and ended in September, in the year 70, in the desolation of the city of Jerusalem, and the temple. And I think, it may be shown to be very probable, that the first three gospels were written before the year 66, when the final troubles and calamities of the Jewish people were coming on.
This must appear to have a great deal of probability, from the predictions therein recorded concerning the destruction of the temple, the overthrow of the city of Jerusalem, the ruin of the Jewish state and people in Judea, together with divers circumstances of these events, and many troubles and calamities preceding them. These predictions are recorded in his histories of our Saviour's ministry, which we call gospels, without any the least hint, either express and designed, or accidentally dropping from the writers, that those predictions had been fulfilled and verified, or that the things spoken of had happened. Those prophecies are recorded in Matt. xxiii. 34-39, and xxiv. Mark xiii. Luke xxi. St. Luke has also elsewhere recorded the affectionate concern which our Lord expressed in the view
• Quinetiam, si ex veterum nonnullorum testimoniis antea adductis, de re judicemus, affirmabimus Matthæum, Marcum, et Lucam ante ultima Neronis tempora, quibus occisi sunt Petrus et Paulus, evangelia scripsisse. Quod non levi argumento confirmari potest, ducto ex Matt. cap. xxiv. Marc. xiii. Luc. xxi. ubi narratur Jerosolymæ excidii prædictio, quasi rei etiamnum futuræ eo tempore, quo evangelia ab iis scribebantur. Si enim eam prædicationem post eventum scripsissent evangelistæ memorati, verbulo saltem monuissent, prædictionem fuisse eventu confirmatam. Quod tantum abest ut faciant, ut Matthaus et Marcus hac admonitione, ὁ αναγινωσκων νοειτω, qui legit, intelligat, quam subjiciunt præsagiis Jerosolymitanæ cladis, admonere videantur christianos in Judæâ viventes, ut diligenter futura illa præsagia attendant, quo possint vitæ suæ consulere. Vide Matt. xxiv. 15. Marc. xiii. 14. et ad ea loca interpretes. Cleric. Diss. iii. de quatuor evangeliis. num. vii. p. 541. Vid. Joseph. Antiq. Jud. 1. 20. cap. xi. n. c. &c. B. i. l. 6. cap. x.
and prospect of those impending evils, ch. xiii. 34, 35, and xix. 41-44. These things are also referred to, and spoken of, in divers other discourses, some plain, some parabolical, or otherwise figurative: as Matt. xxi. 33-46; xxii. 1-7; Mark xii. 1-12 ; Luke xiii. 1–9; xx. 9-20; xxi. 5—13. In none of all which places does there appear any intimation that the things spoken of were come to pass, and in recording the presages of this final and total overthrow of the Jewish nation, the historians have inserted warnings and admonitions, proper to excite the attention of readers, and induce those who lived in Judea, to take care of their own safety without delay. Matt. xxiv. 15-18, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place; (whoso readeth let him understand ;) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him which is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house. Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes." And what follows. And to the like purpose in Mark xiii. 14-16. When these discourses were recorded, the things spoken of had not yet come to pass. There were men living to whom these admonitions might be useful for securing their safety.
Moreover, though these predictions must have been recorded, before they were accomplished, I think the fulfilment was then near at hand, and not far off. This seems to be implied in that expression: "Let him that readeth, understand." And indeed it must have been difficult and hazardous to publish such things in writing. How offensive these sayings must have been to the Jewish people, and perhaps to some others likewise, is easy to conceive from the nature of the things spoken of: and it may be confirmed by divers instances. When our Lord had spoken the parable of the vineyard, let out to husbandmen, recorded in Luke xx. 9-18, it is added by the evangelist, ver. 19, 20. "And the chief priests, and the scribes, the same hour sought to lay hands on him, but they feared the people; for they perceived, that he had spoken this parable against them. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor." And among the odious charges brought against our Saviour by false witnesses, this was one, "that he said: I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days," Matt. xxvi. 61. With this he was reproached likewise, when
hanging on the cross, ch. xxvii. 40. The like offensive charges were brought against Stephen. Acts vi. 14, "We have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered to us." And, possibly, he did say somewhat not very different. So likewise St. Matthew, and the other apostles, might repeat in the hearing of many what Christ had said to them, and in part to others also, concerning the overthrow of the temple, and the Jewish state: yea, very probably, they had often repeated these things to attentive hearers. But speaking and writing are different ; and I apprehend it could not have been safe, nor prudent, to record these predictions (many of which are very plain, and all intelligible) soon after our Lord's ascension.
These prophecies therefore of our Lord, as recorded in the first three gospels, afford at once an argument, that they were written and published before the destruction of Jerusalem and that they were not published many years before it, or, however, not many years before the commencement of the war at the time above mentioned.
An argument showing the true time of writing the Gospels, taken from the Acts, and the beginning of St. Luke's gospel.
NONE can suppose that the book of the Acts of the Apostles was composed before the year 62, or 63, as the history is there brought down to the period of St. Paul's two imprisonment at Rome.
And, very probably, the gospel, to which St. Luke refers at the beginning of that book, had not been written long before. This I suppose to be now the common opinion of learned men. And for giving the greatest satisfaction to all my readers, I shall transcribe below at large the sentiments of several to this purpose, such as that of the late Mr.
a Hence we see near to what time this history of the Acts was written : viz. either in the year 62, or not long after; it being altogether probable, that St. Luke would not defer writing long after his departure from St. Paul; which seems to have been now, when the apostle was set at liberty from ⚫his confinement at Rome.-That he wrote both the gospel and the Acts in the same year, seems very probable; as it is certain, that one of them is only to be looked upon as the second part, or continuation of the
Jones, and Estius, Mill, Dodwell, and Basnage; though the thing appears to me very obvious: and if so, we have gained very nearly the date of one of the four gospels.
Grotius supposeth, that when Paul left Rome, he went into Spain: and that at the same time Luke went into Greece, and there wrote both his gospel and the Acts. Jerom supposeth, that the book of the Acts was written at Rome. But that makes no difference in point of time; since he allows, that it reaches to the end of St. Paul's two years' imprisonment at Rome,
This one consideration, so far as I am able to judge, overthrows the opinion, that St. Luke's gospel was written about fifteen years after our Lord's ascension. Yea, it evidently shows, that it was not written till the year 60, or afterwards.
And the beginning of St. Luke's gospel affords an argument, that the other two gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were not written sooner: for this evangelist knew nothing of them. Consequently, they were not then written and published, or but lately; every word of his introduction shows this: let us observe it.
"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us. It seemed good unto me also, having had perfect understanding of all things, from the very other.' Jones' New and Full Method, &c. Part. iv. ch. xvi. vol. iii. p. 158. See him also, ch. xi. p. 115.
Deinde, nec satis constat, evangelium Lucæ jam tum editum fuisse, quando Paulus hanc epistolam scripsit. Nam Acta quidem Apostolica scripsisse videtur statim post evangelium, tanquam ejusdem voluminis libros primum et secundum. Scripsit autem Acta post biennium Pauli Romæ commorantis, id est, multis annis post hanc epistolam. Quare circa idem tempus evangelium ab eo scriptum fuisse, credibile est. Est. ad 2 Cor. viii. 18.
Voluminis hujus D. Lucæ partem posteriorem, seu λoyov devrepov qued attinet, librum dico Actuum Apostolorum, haud dubium est quin is scriptus sit statim post Aоуоν πρшτоν, sive evangelium. Mill. Prol. num. 121.
4 Sunt enim Acta δευτερος ejusdem operis λογος, cujus πρωτον λογον ipse suum agnoscit evangelium. Act. i. 1. Dodw. Diss. Iren. i. num. xxxix.
• Non multum vero interjectum fuisse temporis inter Actorum Apostolicorum et evangelii confectionem conjectura ex præfatione ad Theophilum duci potest. Primum quidem librum confeci'-Actuum ergo liber continuatio est, seriesque evangelii.-Multum vero abiise temporis antequam a priore libro omnibus numeris expleto ad posteriorem transiret Lucas nullâ ratione cogimur ad credendum, &c. Basnag. Ann. 60. num. xxviii.
f Librum autem et hunc, et qui de Actibus Apostolorum, scriptum arbitror, non multo postquam Paulus Româ abiit in Hispaniam. Nam in id tempus desinit Actuum liber, qui si serius scriptus esset, in ulteriora etiam tempora narrationem protenderet. Puto autem, Româ iisse Lucam in Achaiam, atque ibi ab eo conscriptos quos habemus libros. Grot. Pr. in Evang. Lucæ. 8 See Vol. iv. ch. cxiv. num. viii. 3.
first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophi lus: That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."
When St. Luke says, that many had undertaken to write histories of our Saviour, he cannot mean Matthew alone, nor Matthew and Mark only, for they are not many. He must intend them, and others, or some different from them: which last will appear most likely, if we consider what there follows.
Of those many he says, they had taken in hand,' undertaken, or attempted. St. Luke would not have spoken thus of Matthew or Mark. Indeed, we may suppose, that those narrations, to which St. Luke refers, were not false and fabulous, nor heretical: but they were defective.
Grotius says, the word is of a middle meaning; and that it does not necessarily imply, that the writers, here intended, had failed to perform what they undertook.
Nevertheless the ancient christians, to several of whom the Greek language was natural, understood the word differently. And their judgments must be of value in this case. Origen's observations upon St. Luke's introduction may be seen, Vol. ii. ch. xxxviii. num. xxiv. 1. where he says, • St. Luke's expression, "taken in hand," implies a tacit ac'cusation of those, who, without the gift of the Holy Ghost, 'took upon them to write gospels. For Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, did not take in hand to write: but, being full of the Holy Ghost, wrote gospels.' In which words, and afterwards, continually, he distinguisheth the four evangelists from the writers referred to by St. Luke. To the like purpose Ambrose, who either copied, or closely imitated Origen. And says Eusebius, Luke' at the be'ginning assigns the reason of his writing, declaring, that whereas many others had rashly undertaken to compose ⚫ relations of the things which were most firmly believed, 'he therefore thought himself obliged, in order to divert
h Quod istos ait Lucas, non satis commode præstitisse; minime tamen, opinor, fabulosas, imo etiam impias narrationes intelligens, tandem ecclesiæ, sub Nicodemi,-Thomæ, Ægyptiorum nominibus impudentissime obtrusas. Nec tamen hic recte colligunt, Lucam post Matthæum et Marcum hanc suam historiam edidisse. Bez. in Luc. cap. i. ver. 1.
ETEXερηoav, aggressi sunt.' Bene notavit vir eruditissimus, vocem esse mediam: neque enim ex eâ colligi posse non præstitum ab illis scriptoribus quod aggressi sunt. Grot. in loc.
* See Vol. iv. ch. cvi. num. iii.
- δηλων ως αρα πολλων και αλλων προπετέσερον επιτηδευκότων διηγησιν ποιησασθαι, ών αυτός πεπληροφορητω λόγων, κ. λ. Euseb. 1. 3. c. 24. p. 96. C.