« AnteriorContinuar »
For FEBRUARY, 1781.
Art. I. , Harmony of the Evangelifts in English; with Critical
Dissertations, an occasional Parapbrase, and Notes for the Use of
a Harmony of the Evangelists in Greek, to which is prefixed a Preface and Critical Differtations in English. Of that publication we gave a general account in our Review for Fe. bruary 1778. In this English edition of the Harmony, as the Doctor acquaints us in his Preface, the text is a copy of the Greek, the intire history,' as in that, with all the incidents and discourses, collected from all the Evangelists, being diftinguished by a larger character, and the collateral accounts of the same things being printed in a smaller character, in separate columns; so that they may be read and compared, or omitted at pleasure.' In this edition some things are likewise added fox the benefit of those who are unlearned, but of an inquisitive and liberal turn of mind; such as an occasional paraphrase, and notes, on such passages and expressions as seem to stand in need of illustration. The Preface and Critical Dissertations, published with the Greek edition of the Harmony, are with great propriety prefixed to the present. The Preface contains many ingenious and judicious observations upon harmonizing in neral, upon the variations in the accounts which different Evangelists give of the same facts, and upon the methods taken by different harmonists to reconcile them to each other. The variations, or rather, apparent inconfiftencies in the accounts which different Evangelists give of the fame facts, Dr. Priestley juftis confiders as an insuperable objection to the notion VOL. LXIV.
generally entertained of their inspiration as writers: upon which subject he has some pertinent and striking remarks. We are tempted to transcribe the two following paragraphs, as containing matter worthy the attention of every liberal minded Christian :
• Admitting that, if the whole credibility of the Gospel hirtory, as we receive it, rested on divine, independent of human teftimony, something might be gained, it is evident that we now receive the Gospel history on the faith of human testimony only. For the early Transcribers of the Gospels were no more inspired than our Printers; and in the course of time that has elapsed from the first promulgation of Christianity to the present age, copies of the Gospel have been so often transmitted from one to another, that a succession of human authorities so great as to exceed all computation, must have intervened since the first writing of the Gospels to their coming into our hands, Since therefore divine Providence has thought proper to intruft this valuable deposit in human hands for so many centuries, how can it be thought inconsistent with the same plan, to convey it to us in the same manner from the very beginning; the Apostles being naturally as capable of relating and writing an account of what they heard and saw, as other persons could be to copy the account after them ?' Pref. p. xi.
• I own, I can see no meaning, or consistency, in the appointment of witnesses, to accompany our Lord, in order to transmit to pofterity an authentic and credible account of his life, doctrine, and miracles, if, after all, it was the intention of the Divine Being to supersede this testimony, by books bearing sufficient marks of fupernatural inspiration. In reality, one single book, the Divine inspiration of which was fully proved, would render all other evidence superfluous.' P. xii.
The subjects of the Critical Dissertations are, the time of the birth and of the death of Christ, the duration of his public ministry, and the order of the events related in the Gospel history. With respect to the duration of our Saviour's ministry, it is now well known, that Dr. Priestley has adopted Mr. Mann's opinion on the subject, which was, indeed, the opinion of Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Origen, and other early Christian writers, viz. That he preached no longer than one year, or one year, and a few months. This hypothefis he has supported with great judgment and ability, by settling with precision the year of the death of Christ, as to which point he thinks Mr. Mann to have been mistaken ; by reciting, in brief, the evidence that Mr. Mann has produced in support of his scheme, confirming it with remarks of his own, and alleging fome additional arguments in its favour; by replying to the objections that have been raised against it; and by considering and comparing the
notes of time, the probable order of the events, and the length of time that was necessary for the transactions contained in the Gospels. The following is the substance of Dr. Priestley's ad. ditional arguments in support of this hypothesis, and nearly in his own words:
'1. Some very short periods of our Lord's public ministry appear, according to the accounts of all the Evangelists, to have been very full of business; and from the manner in which’ they • describe his usual way of life, it should seem that the greatest part of his time was thus fully employed.'— If, now, our Lord had passed three or four years in this manner, and the twelve Apostles' — and the seventy also'-had been teaching and working miracles in different places for the same space of time, such a number of miracles would have been performed, as that either there could have been no unbelievers left in Judea ; or, such a resentment would have been raised in the minds of the Jewish rulers, as, without a miracle, could not but have terminated in his death long before.'
2. It is also more easy to account for the prejudices of the Apostles, and their ignorance of the true nature of Christ's kingdom, even at and after our Lord's death, on the fuppofie tion that his ministry was of a short, than that it was of a long duration.'
« 3. If our Lord preached three or four years; and, consequently the Evangelists have sometimes passed over the events of whole years at a time, is it not surprising that none of them should ever connect those distant parts of their narrative by such phrases as the year following, after one, or after two years, &c. &c.'
If Jesus had been preaching and working miracles, both in Judea and in Galilee, almost a year before the death of John the Baptist, Herod, who reigned in Galilee, could not but have heard of him; and therefore could not but have known that he was not John that was risen from the dead.'
5. All our Lord's journeys that the Evangelists give us any account of, agree in so many circumstances, that they are evidently the same, and are supposed fo to be by all Harmonists. Now since these four historians have selected very different events in our Saviour's life, is it not surprising, that all his journeys to Jerusalem make no more than four; three of which, at least, every Jew was obliged to make in the compass of every year?'- John, who supplies many of the deficiencies of the other Evangelists, only makes up the number of them to four. He fupplies many new discourses, and new incidents, but no more journeys to Jerusalem than those above mentioned.'
Of these arguments it must be allowed, that the first, the fourth and the fifth, deserve attention. The second and third
have but little weight. A fufficient answer to the third in particular, might be extracted from Dr. Priestley's own remarks on the neglect of chronological order in the Evangelical histories, and the reasons which he has afligned for that neglect. With respect to his replies to the objections that have been made to this hypothesis, we shall have occasion to consider them hereafter, His calculation of the time necessary for the transactions recorded in the Gospels, is too long to be transcribed. We gave our Readers the conclusion of it in our Review of the Greek Harmony. We beg leave to obferve, as we go on, that Dr. Priestley is mistaken in afferting, that, in addition to those fathers who held the same opinion with himself, quoted by Sir Isaac Newton,' Mr. Mann .adds the testimony of Justin Mare tyr, and Valentinus the Heretic.' In the passage alluded to, Mr. Mann mentions only Clemens of Alexandria; Tertullian, Origen, Africanus, Lactantius, and before them all in time, Valentinus, the learned heretic'~ contemporary with Juftin Martyr.'
About a year after the publication of Dr. Priestley's Greek Harmony, Dr. Newcome, then Bishop of Offory, now of Waterford, published An Harmony of the Gospels, in Greek also, to which he subjoined observations tending to settle the time and place of every transaction, and to establish the series of facts *. His Lordship, unsatisfied with the arguments produced in support of Mr. Mann's hypothesis, adjusted his Harmony to the more common opinion, that our Saviour's public ministry continued three years and a half, and included in that space of time four Passovers : and in his observations he adverted particularly to Dr. Priestley's reasoning on the subject, advancing several strong, if not insuperable objections to his system. Dr. Priestley has prefixed to the present publication a letter addressed to Dr. Newcome in reply to his remarks. In this letter Dr. Priestley recapitulates the principal arguments he had employed in his previous differtations in support of Mr. Mann's opinion, with fome farther illustration ; endeavours to invalidate the Bishop's objections to it; invites him to a free and full discusfion of the subject; and points out some particulars, to which in that case he wishes his Lordship more especially to attend. Dr. Priestley had observed, in his Dissertations, p. 52, that our Lord's tarrying in Judea, John iii. 22. could not have been for any long time, because the other Evangelists make no mention of it, &c. Dr. Newcome observed, in answer, that the Evangelists often omit very important events. To this Dr. Priestley replies,
* Of this judicious and elegant publication our Readers will find a particular account in the Review for October 1779.
+ Notwithstanding the great omissions that your Lordship ob, ferves there are in some parts of the Gospel history, it must cera tainly be thought very improbable, that Matthew, Mark, and Luké should have known of this long stay of Jesus in Judea, and not have noticed it. Other omiffions are generally of such things as were similar to such as they had noticed before, or of what, on fome other account, they might deem unnecessary after what they had related. But here would be an omission of what may almost be called the very first open publication of the Gospel, and of the first public miracles.'-The Doctor afterwards observes, that, in Galilee, the Gospel is always said to have begun; and in proof of this, he refers to Luke xxiii. 5. and Acts x. 37-39. He had referred in his Differtations to Matth. iv. 17. Then, having enlarged upon the improbability that Herod should not have heard of Jesus till after the death of John, if he had preached almost two years before that event, he adds, . This argument is not a reductio ad abfurdum, of the same kind with those of Euclid : but let any person consider all the circumo, stances of this case, especially that Herod was not a Roman, but a Jew, surrounded by Jews, and not unattentive to his religion, who had even taken some pleasure in hearing John preach, for we read, Mark vi. 20. that he did many things (probably things that John had recommended) and heard him gladly, that this preaching of Jesus had been always near his own dominions (for it was probably in his way to Galilee), and that the whole country of Judea at that time, including all Galilee, was not much larger than Yorkshire; and I think he must pronounce that the thing is hardly, in fact, less credible, and that a plan of a Harmony labouring under this difficulty (and in fact every Harmony except that of Mr. Mann is thus cir. cumstanced) cannot deserve much attention. I think I may venture to challenge any person to draw out a plan of a Har. mony that shall extend the public ministry of Christ to more than one complete year, in such a manner as that this one difficulty, not to mention many others, shall not be insuperable.' Matth. iv. 23. it is said, Jesus we
it is said, Jesus went about all Galilee, &c. Dr. Newcome thought a month was a moderate space of time for the transactions to which the Evangelist refers. Upon this, Dr. Priestley, among other things, observes,
Surely, my Lord, in this, as in a former case, you lay too great stress on general expressions, which, after all, you yourself cannot suppose to be understood quite literally; for all Galilee cannot mean here every town and village in Galilee ; and, if it must be restricted, why may it not be to the places in the neighbourhood of Capernaum, especially Chorasin and Bethsaida, which were probably within a few miles of Capernaum ? Our Lord himfelf seems to lead to this construction, by saying, after