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Luke vi. 1.
write Gospels at all? St Luke's conduct, as we have already seen, must, on that sup- From the beposition, have been a presumptuous deviation from his duty; and the task which St ginning of the Mark undertook, must, I should think, appear to every unprejudiced man to have been Matth. ii. 8. at least useless. It is indeed very true that St Luke relates many important things in Mark xi. 23. the earlier life of our Saviour which St Matthew has omitted; and it is equally true that St Mark's Gospel contains several important, though short, additions to the accounts given by St Matthew; but the former of these evangelists might have supplied the deficiencies which he wished to supply, by prefixing an introduction to the Gospel of his supposed precursor; and the latter by notes or an appendix.
Should it be said that the practice of one man's editing the works of another, and prefixing an introduction or adding an appendix to them, is a modern invention, to which the evangelists were strangers, it will surely be granted that the second and third, supposing them to have had the first Gospel before them, might each have published a Gospel of his own on the plan that was afterwards adopted by St John. There is every reason to believe that the three first Gospels were before him when he wrote his own; but instead of going over the same ground with them, and transcribing from them, he either passes over what they contain altogether, or when he is obliged to mention some of the facts which had been mentioned in them, in order to give consistency and connection to his own narrative, he relates those facts in the fewest words possible, insisting on them no longer than was necessary to connect his own narrative, and render it intelligible to his reader. Had St Luke and St Mark, supposing them to have had St Matthew's Gospel before them when writing their own, adopted any one of these methods, they would at least have supported the authority and credit of the apostle-evangelist, by their own testimony to its truth; whereas, if they copied his words without acknowledgment, they can nowhere have added to his authority, whilst, in the few places in which they apparently differ from him in circumstances, however unimportant, they lessen not his credibility only, but also their own. It has indeed been asserted with great vehemence, that the hypothesis of the three first evangelists copying from each other gives greater credibility to their united testimony, than they would have been entitled to claim, had they all written without the knowledge of what each of the others had written before him. On what law of human thought this maxim is founded, I know not; but I apprehend it to be contrary to the principles by which courts of justice are guided in the examination of witnesses. By the law of Scotland no man can be admitted as a witness in any cause, whether civil or criminal, who has heard a preceding witness give evidence in that cause; and I believe the same practice prevails in courts-martial, both military and naval. On what principle was this regulation introduced into all judicial proceedings in Scotland, and into all courts-martial in England? Undoubtedly in the first instance to prevent wilful collusion or concert among the witnesses, especially in trials of which they might be deeply interested in the issue; but had this been the sole motive for such a regulation in the taking of evidence, it would probably have been introduced, at least into all criminal courts in England, in which I believe the practice of excluding the witnesses from each other does not prevail. Another inducement for the introduction of such a practice appears therefore to me to have been, to make sure of the testimony of each witness being given from his own personal knowledge; for of this no court can be sure in which the witnesses are examined in the presence of each other. Circumstances of the greatest importance to the cause at issue may have. escaped from the recollection of one witness, till they were recalled to it by the narrative of another previously examined in his hearing; and other circumstances which perhaps had wholly escaped his observation, may be so closely connected with those which he distinctly remembers as to appear to him when he hears them related in detail, to be part of that which he originally saw or heard. In both these cases, however, but more especially in the last, the testimony of two, or even of twenty witnesses, should so
A. M. 4034, many concur in swearing to such circumstances, would in reality be the testimony of &c. or 5439. but one witness, and would be considered as nothing more by the judge and jury, conld they ascertain that the testimony of the second and third or twentieth witness was sugVulg. Er. 28. gested by the narrative of the first. As the most acute man on earth cannot discern the secrets of his neighbour's heart, it was probably to prevent this innocent collusion, if I may use such an expression, that the examination of witnesses in the presence of each other has been so strictly prohibited by the law of Scotland, and likewise by the military code of England; for it is needless to attempt by human laws to prevent those who disregard the awful obligation of an oath from entering into wilful concerts for the perversion of justice, if they have it in their power to do so, and think that it would promote their own interest.
But if two or three men giving oral evidence in a court of justice, and each merely repeating what had been said by him or them who had been examined before him, would by their united testimony add nothing to the credibility of the first witness; does it not follow that the testimony of three men writing a history of the same events, and each transcribing from the narratives of him or them whose works are lying before him, is no greater authority, in the points in which they all agree, than the individual testimony of the earliest writer? What it is in the points in which they appear not to be perfectly agreed, we shall see by and bye.
It has indeed been said (a) that this method, followed by the evangelists, of "copying from each other, tended to preserve the integrity of their inestimable records, when a Gospel could not only be collated in several copies, but could also be compared with another Gospel, which in a great variety of passages, and in many remarkable words, was aliud et idem." But, on the supposition of the one copying from the other, the three Gospels are in that variety of passages, not aliud et idem, but unum et idem; and therefore the collation of Gospels only nominally different could produce no greater security for a genuine reading than the collation of a number of manuscripts of the same Gospel. The writer, who thinks it of so much importance that the evangelists should have copied from each other, adds, that "it appears to have been the intention of heaven that every inspired writer should be a separate and distinct voucher of the truth of the dispensation of the glorious and everlasting Gospel ;" and in this opinion I most cordially agree with him. It is the opinion which I have cherished ever since I was deeply interested in such subjects. But while I hold this opinion, and I hope to hold it to the end of my life, it is impossible that I can believe that the later writers of Gospels copied from the former without acknowledgment; and that they did so, because, "Had they expressly quoted what had been already written on the subject, it would have seemed to imply a want of authority in the writer who fortified his narrative by such quotation; as if without this collateral aid, he was not, fully and beyond all exception or suspicion, a competent witness *." To me it appears that the very reverse of all
(a) Brit. Crit. vol. xl. p. 295.
his design by discovering his secret and revealing it to the world! In like manner, the evangelists forbear to acknowledge their quotations from each other, that "every one of them might appear to be fully and beyond all suspicion a competent witness," which, in his own opinion, it seems, would not have been the case, had he acknowledged his quotations! Their secret, however, has been discovered, and their plagiarisms detected; but the discoverers have assured us, that we have nothing to dread from the discovery, since the evangelists were in a great mistake when they suspected that by avowedly quoting from each other's writings they should lessen the authority of the whole!
Luke vi. 1.
this would have been the consequence, had they quoted expressly. Had St Luke ap- From the bepealed to St Matthew, supposing St Matthew to have written before him, for the truth ginning of the of all those many things in which they perfectly agree, adding, that he was himself Matth. il. 8. present on the occasion as well as the apostle; and had he said of such things as St Mark xi. 23. Matthew has recorded but he has omitted, that he had no doubt of their truth, though he was not present when they occurred, is there a man alive, who supposes that such candid conduct would have seemed to imply a want of authority in the second writer? Again, had St Mark said that he omitted many important facts which he found in the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke, though he firmly believed them, because he had not received them from St Peter, whilst he had added several incidents and observations, chiefly related to St Peter, which they had either not observed or omitted from respect to the first of the apostles, surely no man supposes that St Mark would by such acknowledgments have lessened either his own authority or the credibility of his Gospel. Had the evangelists quoted from each other in this candid and honourable manner, they would indeed have supported each other's credibility; and we might have said, with truth, that" in regard to that infinitely momentous point, the foundation of the whole building, the life of the Blessed Redeemer, it seemed good to the Spirit of Wisdom, that this should be attested by the mouths of four inspired witnesses, in four successive memorials, separate and yet connected, fitted to each other like exchequer tallies." According to the mode, however, in which they are supposed to have quoted from each other, they certainly have not confirmed each other's attestation, whilst they may be supposed to have destroyed each other's claim to the character of inspired writers.
It is on this last account chiefly that the question is worthy of discussion. Had no man written a history of our Lord but St Matthew or St Luke, taking into his account the momentous doctrines supplied by St John, his credibility would have been unexceptionable; and the Christian religion would have rested on the surest foundation, whether he had written by inspiration or not, provided he had given a faithful detail of the doctrines which he had heard, and of the miracles wrought by our Lord in evidence of the truth of those doctrines. It is not the credibility of any one of the evangelists, considered as mere human historians of what they had seen and heard, that the copying hypothesis calls in question; but it is the inspiration of them all as historians that this hypothesis destroys completely.. The harmony among the three first is certainly wonderful; and as they are known to have written at places far distant from each other, and, as had hitherto been supposed, without each other's knowledge, this harmony has been generally considered as one of the strongest proofs that they wrote each under the superintendence of the Spirit of God-the small discrepancies in their narratives, shewing that those who wrote last, had not seen what was written before them. Had they agreed universally, they might have been allowed to have copied from each other; and the truth of our religion would have rested upon the authority of the first Gospel, together with St John's, about which there is no doubt, and that foundation would have been as solid as a rock; but, if the copying hypothesis be true, how are discrepancies in their narratives to be accounted for? This is an awful question, to which, it appears to me that the advocates for that hypothesis would do well to pay greater attention than they seem to have hitherto done. Such discrepancies are natural and give additional credibility to the several memoirs of the evangelists, if these memoirs were written either from the recollection of their respective authors, or from private memoranda made, by each for his own use, at the time when he heard or saw what he afterwards related in a fuller and more regular detail; but if the second was in great part a tran
In this opinion I heartily agree with those discoverers; though I am decidedly of opinion, that by copying without acknowledgment, and occasionally giving
different accounts of the same event, they would have
&c. o 5439. Ann. Dom. 30, &c.
Vulg Ær. 28.
A. M. 4031, script from the first, and the third from the first and second, many passages occur in the Gospels which seem to imply that the evangelists considered the narratives of each other as not absolutely free from error, and therefore as not written by inspiration. Many instances of this kind have been collected by Lardner, Michaelis, Dunster, and many others, from whom I shall extract one or two, referring the reader to these authors for further satisfaction. A very important miracle is thus differently related by St Matthew and St Luke, whilst by St Mark it is omitted altogether.
"When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him -And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self-some hour."
St Mat. viii. 1-14.
"Now when he had ended all his say. ings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly-earnestly, saying, that he was worthy for whom he should do this. For he loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself, for I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee; but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel. And they that were sent returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick." St Luke vii. 1-11.
Is it conceivable, that the two evangelists would have related the history of this miracle and of the centurion's faith in so very different a manner, had one of them been writing with the Gospel of the other lying before him? There is indeed no contradiction between the two narratives; for, as Whitby has observed, it was a rule among the Jews," that the messenger or proxy of any man is as himself;" and we all know that Jethro is represented in the Old Testament as coming to Moses by a messenger (a); and Solomon as speaking to Hiram by his servants (b); but certainly if we had received
Luke vi. 1.
the account of this miracle from St Matthew only, we should never have supposed that From the be the request was made to our Lord by any other than the centurion himself in person, ginning of the or that any part of the conversation was carried on by proxy. It is in fact extremely Matth. ix. 8. probable, as St Chrysostom has observed, that when our Lord approached very near to Mark ii. 23. the door of the house, the centurion did come out to meet him; and that it was to himself and to neither of his proxies that the heavenly physician said, "Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee;" but these words are not introduced into the narrative of St Luke, in which our Lord and the centurion appear not to have met at all. Could this have happened if St Luke had written with St Matthew's Gospel lying before him? or would he have omitted what our Lord says of " many coming from the east and west and sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven"-information the most interesting that could have been communicated to the Gentile Christians, for whose use chiefly he is supposed to have written his Gospel! The whole is perfectly natural if both evangelists were original writers and personal witnesses of what they record; for each appears to have noted what made the deepest impression on his own mind, and which of course he most distinctly remembered; but, if the one copied from the other, I see not how it is possible to avoid the inference, that, in the opinion of the second, the narrative of the first was inaccurate.
The dispossessing of the demoniac or demoniacs of a legion of devils, in the country of the Gadarenes, or Gergesenes, and the possession of the herd of swine by those evil spirits, is recorded by St Matthew, St Luke, and St Mark, (a) and in their accounts there is just such a harmony as we should expect in the relation of three independent writers equally honest and equally acquainted with the events described. But if they copied from each other, there is such a discrepancy among them as will compel us to admit, that, in the opinion of St Luke and St Mark, St Matthew's account is inaccurate; or, if they wrote before him, that he considered their accounts as inaccurate; for St Matthew expressly affirms that our Lord was met by two demoniacs, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce; whereas the two other evangelists speak of only one such demoniac, who according to St Luke" wore no clothes." Is it possible that St Luke and St Mark would have deviated thus far from the narrative of St Matthew, if his Gospel had been lying before them, when they were writing their own, unless they had thought his account inaccurate? I should think not; but the harmony of them all is easily restored, merely by supposing that, though both the men possessed were exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way, yet the man without clothes was more exceedingly fierce than the other, and that the attention of St Luke and St Mark, if both were present, were completely arrested by him—a circumstance in itself extremely probable. If so, they would naturally relate those circumstances of a miracle, that was equally great whether one or two men were dispossessed, which had made the deepest impression on their own minds, and were, of course, most distinctly remembered; though there can be no doubt but that they would have mentioned both the demoniacs, had the other been recalled to their recollection by the sight of St Matthew's Gospel.
Of the restoration to sight of one or two blind men near Jericho we have three difdifferent accounts by the three first evangelists, all easily reconciled to each other on the supposition of their being independent writers, but utterly irreconcileable on the copying hypothesis.