Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

these writings, it would have been a foolish undertaking to refute them from the contents of the books.

Further; it is a wholly peculiar circumstance in the history of the gospels, and one which goes a great way to sustain their genuineness, that we nowhere find, in any writer of any part of the ancient world, an indication that only a single one of the four gospels was in use, or even known to exist separately. All possessed the entire collection of the gospels. It is true, there is one writer, Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, concerning whom there is no express statement, that he had all the four gospels. But the manner in which Eusebius speaks respecting him in his Church History, is such, that there is nothing questionable in this silence. Eusebius adduces from a work of Papias, now not extant, some notices of Matthew and Mark. It is certainly true that nothing is said of Luke and John ; but this is undoubtedly because the ancient bishop had not made any particular observations on these two gospels. His silence l'especting them is the less an evidence that he was not acquainted with them, as the theatre of the labors of Papias was in the vicinity of Ephesus, where John lived so long, and moreover, wrote his gospel. Hence Papias must necessarily have been acquainted with it. Eusebius, moreover, remarks in the same place, that Papias was acquainted with the first epistle of John ; how much rather, then, with his gospel? Hence, Eusebius says nothing concerning Luke and John, because it was a matter of course that Papias was familiar with them, and the latter had not said anything special in regard to their origin. There were, moreover, some heretics who made use of but one gospel, e. g; Marcion used Luke, and the Ebionites Matthew; but they had special reasons for doing so, in their doctrinal opinions. They did not, by any means, deny the three other gospels to be genuine; they only asserted that their authors were not true disciples of our Lord. Marcion held the erroneous notion, that all the disciples, with the exception of Paul, still continued halfJews. The Jewish Christians maintained that all the disciples except Matthew, had strayed away too far from Judaism, and on that account did not receive their writings. In this state of the case, there is a clear evidence from their opinions, also, that the gospels are genuine, and were in that day generally diffused in the church. Now, as the collection of our four gospels existed so very early and so universally, the inquiry occurs, how

it could have originated ? A particular individual, or a church, may have formed it, and it may then have spread itself every where abroad. This supposition seems to be countenanced by the circumstance of the general uniformity as to the order of the four gospels. A few Mss. only, place John next to Matthew, in order that the writings of the apostles may be by themselves. Clearly, however, this transposition arose from the fancy of some copyist, and has no historical foundation. There is still, therefore, positive authority for the universally received arrangement. The most weighty circumstance against the opinion that the collection of the gospels was made in a particular place, and diffused itself abroad from thence, is, that we have no account respecting such a process; though we should expect one from the fact that John lived, and moreover, wrote his gospel, at so late a period. For this reason had the evangelist John himself, as some suppose, or any other man of high authority in the church, formed the collection of the gospels, we should, one would think, have had an account of its formation, as it could not have taken place before the end of the first, or commencement of the second century, which period borders very closely on that from which we derive so many accounts concerning the gospels. But this very circumstance, that we read nothing at all respecting a collector of the gospels, that writers have been left to conjecture, in regard to the manner in which the collection of them was inade, leads to another view of its formation, which casts the clearest light on the genuineness of the books. It is in the highest degree probable, that our gospels all originated in capital cities of the Roman empire. Matthew probably wrote his in Jerusalem, the centre of Judaism, where also, as appears from the Acts of the apostles, a large Christian church was early gathered. Mark and Luke undoubtedly wrote in Rome, the political centre of the empire, to which innumerable multitudes thronged from all quarters of the world, for the transaction of business. In this city, too, a flourishing Christian church was early formed, as is seen from the epistle of Paul to the Romans, which was written before Peter, or Paul, or any apostle had visited Rome. Lastly, John wrote at Ephesus, a large and thriving city of Asia Minor, which was the residence of many learned and ingenious heathen. The large church of Ephesus was, according to the Acts, founded by Paul. It was fostered by the labors of John. Now let it be considered, how many thousands must, consequently, hay

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

been most exactly aware who wrote the gospels, and it will be
perceived that these circumstances afford weighty evidence of
their genuineness, particularly as there is not to be found in a
single ancient writer, the faintest trace of any doubt in regard
to it; for the heretics, who, as we have remarked, disputed the
gospels in part, did not deny their genuineness, (they rather ful-
ly admitted it), but only their obligatory authority. Now, as
very active intercourse was maintained among the Christians of
the ancient church, partly by constant epistolary communica-
tions, and partly by frequent personal visits, nothing is more
natural than the supposition, that the Christians of Jerusalem
very soon transmitted the gospel of Matthew which was com-
posed in the midst of them, to Rome, Ephesus, Alexandria, and
Other places, and that on the other hand, those of Rome, and
Ephesus also, transmitted the writings composed among them, to
the other churches. In every church there were archives, in
which were deposited important documents. Into these ar-
chives of the church, the gospels were put, and as only these
four gospels were composed or vouched for by apostles, the col-
lection of gospels took its rise, not in this or that place, but in
every quarter simultaneously. This statement of the matter is,
in the first place, strictly in accordance with the circumstances
of the ancient church, and also the only one capable of explain-
ing satisfactorily the existence of the collection in every body's
hands, while no one knew how and whence it originated. As,
moreover, we find no other gospel but these in general use, it is
clearly evident that only these four were of apostolic origin. It
is true we find in circulation in individual churches, gospels
which appear to have differed from our own; e. g. the church
at Rhosus in Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor, made use of a
gospel of Peter, and in Alexandria, one called the gospel of the
Ægyptians was current. It is possible, however, that either
these two writings were the same, or at least, were very nearly
allied, and also bore close affinity to our Mark; and in that case,
their use is as easily accounted for as the use of Matthew and
Luke, by the Ebionite and Marcionite sects, in recensions some-
what altered from the original.

From this cursory view of the evidence in favor of the genu-
ineness of the gospels, we cannot but admit that no work can
be adduced, out of the whole range of ancient literature, which
has so many, and so decisive ancient testimonies in its behalf,
as they. It is, therefore, properly, a mere labored effort to try

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

to maintain and demonstrate the spuriousness of the gospels.
Since, however, this attempt is made, it is a reasonable inquiry,
Whence is derived any occasion for doubt, when every thing
without exception is in favor of their genuineness ? We can-
not but say, that no thorough, serious-minded scholar would ever
have denied the genuineness of the gospels, had not the ques-
tion in regard to their genuineness been conjoined with another
investigation of extreme difficulty and intricacy. In the ardent
endeavor to get rid of this difficulty, scholars have been seduced
into the invention of hypotheses irreconcilable with the genuine-
ness of the gospels. They should, on the contrary, have set
out invariably with the admission of their genuineness, as an ir-
refragable fact, and then have employed only such modes of
solving the difficulty above alluded to as were based on the sup-
position of their genuineness. The difficulty is this. On close
comparison of the first three gospels we discover a' very striking
coincidence between them. This is exhibited, not merely in
the facts and the style, but also in the order of narration, in the
transitions from one narrative to another, and in the use of un-
common expressions, and other things of the same character.
Further; the coincidence is interrupted by just as striking a dis-
similarity, in such a manner that it is in the highest degree dif-
ficult to explain how this coincidence and this dissimilarity, as
it is exhibited in the gospels, can have originated. This is a
purely learned investigation, which should have been quietly
prosecuted as such, without allowing it to influence the question
respecting the genuineness of the gospels. Such has been its
influence, however, that some scholars suppose a so-called Pro-
tevangelion, or original gospel, which the apostles, before they
left Jerusalem and scattered themselves abroad over the whole
earth, prepared to serve as a guide to them in their discourses.
This writing is supposed to have contained the principal events
of the life of our Lord; and it was carried into all lands by the
apostles. Now in these different countries, it is said by the de-
fenders of this hypothesis, additions were gradually made to this
original gospel. These were at first short, and thus originated

gospels of the Jewish Christians, the Marcionites and others;
afterwards they became longer, and in this way at last our gos-
pels were produced. Now as it cannot be stated by whom
these additions were made, this view is really equivalent to mak-
ing our gospels spurious, for, according to it, only the little
tions of them which existed in the brief original gospel is of

[ocr errors]

the

por

the

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

apostolic authority. But, setting aside the fact that this hypothesis must be false, for this very reason, because it opposes genuineness of the gospels, which can be demonstrated by historical proof, this theory has been, moreover, of late utterly discarded on other grounds. In the first place, no ancient Christian writer exhibits any acquaintance with such an original gospel; and is it conceivable that the knowledge of so remarkable a work should have been totally lost ? Then, too, the idea that a guide was composed by the apostles for themselves, in order to preserve unity in doctrine, is not at all suited to the apostolic times. In them the Holy Spirit operated with its primitive freshness and power. This Spirit, which guided into all truth, was the means of preserving unity among the apostles. Not an individual of those witnesses to the truth needed any external written guide. Besides, this supposition solves the difficulty in question respecting the coincidence between the gospels only in a very meagre and forced manner, while there is a much simpler way of reaching the same result far more satisfactorily. We must suppose more than one source of this characteristic of the first three gospels. Sometimes one evangelist was certainly made use of by another. This remark is applicable particularly to Mark, who undoubtedly was acquainted with and made use of both Matthew and Luke. Moreover, there existed short accounts of particular parts of the gospel history, such as narratives of particular cases of healing, relations of journeys, and the like. Now when two evangelists made use of the same brief account, there naturally resulted a resemblance in their history. Still, as each was independent in his use of these accounts, some variations also occurred. Finally; much of the similarity between them arose from oral narratives. It is easy to believe that certain portions of the evangelical history, e. g. particular cures, parables, and discourses of our Lord should have been repeated constantly in the very same way, because the form of the narrative imprinted itself with very great exactness on every one's memory. In this manner the songs of Homer and Ossian were long transmitted from mouth to mouth. Uniformity in the oral mode of narration is not sufficient of itself alone to explain the relation between the gospels, because in prose it is impossible (in poetry it is much easier) to imprint on the memory minute traits and unimportant forms of expression with so much exactness as would be necessary to account for the mutual affinity of the gospels; and, moreover, could their similarity be

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »