of reason," ascribed to Josephus by Philostratus, Eusebius, and Jerome. Its author is not known: it is extant in the Vatican and Alexandrian manuscripts, and in various editions of the Septuagint, in which it is placed after the three books of Maccabees, but it is not extant in any Latin Bibles. It is designed to adorn and enlarge the history of old Eleazar, and of the seven brothers, who with their mother suffered martyrdom under Antiochus, as is related more succinctly in the sixth and seventh chapters of the second book of Maccabees. Dr. Cotton has the honour of giving the first correct English version of this book.

Besides the two books of Maccabees here noticed, there | same as the book "concerning the government, or empire are three others which bear their names, but very improperly: neither of them has ever been reputed canonical. 3. The THIRD BOOK OF MACCABEES contains the history of the persecution of the Jews in Egypt by Ptolemy Philopater, and their sufferings under it. From its style, this book appears to have been written by some Alexandrian Jew: it abounds with the most absurd fables. With regard to its subject, it ought in strictness to be called the FIRST book of Maccabees, as the events it professes to relate occurred before the achievements of that heroic family; but as it is of less authority and repute than the other two, it is reckoned after them. It is extant in Syriac, though the translator seems to have been but imperfectly acquainted with the Greek language; and it is also found in some ancient manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint, particularly in the Alexandrian and Vatican manuscripts; but it was never inserted in the Latin Vulgate, nor in our English Bibles. Being reputed to be a canonical book by the Greek church, it is inserted in the various editions of the Septuagint: a translation of the third book of Maccabees is inserted in Becke's edition of the English Bible, printed in 1551; a second translation by Mr. Whiston was published in his "Authentic Documents," in two volumes, 8vo. 1719-27; and a third version, made by the Rev. Clement Crutwell, was added to his edition of the authorized English version, with the notes of Bishop Wilson. Dr. Cotton considers Mr. Whiston's version to be the more faithful of the three; but he has not held himself bound to retain it in his English edition of the five books of Maccabees, wherever an examination of the original suggested an alteration as advisable. 4. The FOURTH BOOK OF MACCABEES is supposed to be the

5. The FIFTH BOOK OF MACCABEES is' the work of an unknown author, who lived after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus; it is supposed to have been compiled from the acts of each successive high-priest. Although Calmet is of opinion that it was originally written in Hebrew, whence it was translated into Greek, yet it is not now extant in either of those languages. It is, however, extant both in Syriac and in Arabic. Dr. Cotton has given an English translation of it from the Latin version of the Arabic text, printed in Bishop Walton's Polyglott edition of the Bible. This book "is a kind of chronicle of Jewish affairs, commencing with the attempt on the treasury of Jerusalem by Heliodorus (with an interpolation of the history of the Septuagint version, composed by desire of Ptolemy), and reaching down to the birth of Christ; or, speaking accurately, to that particular point of time, at which Herod, almost glutted with the noblest blood of the Jews, turned his murderous hands upon the members of his own family; and completed the sad tragedy of the Asmonæan princes, by the slaughter of his own wife Mariamne, her mother, and his own two sons."4





and the sixth, the Apocalypse. But the more modern, and certainly more convenient arrangement, is that of the Historical, Doctrinal, and Prophetical Books.

VARIOUS modes of arranging the books of the New Testament have obtained at different times; nor does the order in which they are to be found in manuscripts correspond with that in which they occur in the printed copies and modern The HISTORICAL BOOKS are such as contain principally translations. In the time of Ignatius (who flourished A. D. matters of fact, though points of faith and doctrine are also 107), the New Testament consisted of two codes or collec- interwoven. They consist of two parts; the first, comprising tions, called "Gospels," and "Epistles," or " Gospels," and the four Gospels, relates the transactions of Jesus Christ. "Apostles ;" the same division prevailed in the time of These, when formed into a volume, have, sometimes been Tertullian, A. D. 200. (the Acts being included in the latter collectively termed Ever, the Gospel, and Eva Igap, division), who called the Gospels"our Digesta," in allu- the Scripture of the Gospels. The second part of these histosion, as it seems, to some collection of the Roman laws rical books relates the transactions of the Apostles, especially digested into order. This division also obtained in the time those of Peter and Paul, and comprises the books called the of Cyprian, who flourished soon after Tertullian. About a Acts of the Apostles. The DOCTRINAL BOOKS include the century afterwards, Athanasius, or the author of the Synopsis fourteen Epistles of Saint Paul, and also the seven Catholic of the Sacred Scriptures attributed to him, makes the New Epistles, so called because they were chiefly addressed to Testament to consist of eight volumes or parts, viz. the four the converted Jews, who were dispersed throughout the RoGospels; the fifth book is the Acts of the Apostles; the sixth man empire. The appellation of Catholic Epistles is of concontains the seven Catholic Epistles; the seventh, the four-siderable antiquity, being mentioned by Eusebius, Jerome, teen Epistles of St. Paul; and the eighth, the Revelation of and the pseudo-Athanasius. The Revelation of Saint John Saint John. In a later age, Leontius of Byzantiums (or Con- forms the PROPHETICAL class of the books of the New Tesstantinople) distributed the books of the New Testament tament. into six books or parts, the first of which comprised the Gospels of Matthew and Mark; the second those of Luke and John; the third, the Acts of the Apostles; the fourth, the seven Catholic Epistles; the fifth, the Epistles of Saint Paul;

1 Prideaux's Connection, vol. ii. p. 111. 8th edit. sub anno 216.

2 Cotton's Five Books of Maccabees, p. xx.

On the preceding classification we may remark, that the appellation of Historical Books is given to the Gospels and Acts, because their subject-matter is principally historical; and that the Gospels are placed first, on account of the importance of their contents, which relate the history of the life, discourses, doctrines, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, which form the primary articles of

3 Calmet's Preface sur le IV. livre des Maccabees. Dissertationes, tom. the Christian faith.10 The Acts of the Apostles are placed

ii. pp. 423-428.; where he has collected all the traditionary information extant concerning this book.

4 Cotton's Five Books of Maccabees, p. xxxii. xxxiv. xxxi.


Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. c. 23. Hieronymi, Cat. Script. Eccles. (Opp. tom. i. pp. 169, 170. Francof. 1684.) Pseudo-Athanasii Synops. Sacr.

See the passages in Dr. Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 81, 82.; 4to. Script. in Athanasii Opp. p. 59.

vol. i. pp. 3227323.

Ibid. 8vo. vol. ii. pp. 278-282.; 4to. vol. i. pp. 431-433.

Ibid. 8vo. vol. iii. pp. 179, 180.; 4to. vol. ii. pp. 28, 29.

10 Considerable discussion has taken place among the German critics, and some few critics in this country, respecting the sources of the four Gospels. Hypothesis has succeeded to hypothesis; and the last is as un

De Sectis, art. 2. cited by Heidegger, Manuale Biblicum, p. 441 and satisfactory as the first. For an account of the principal theories on this Rumpus, Com. Crit. ad Libros N T. p. 97.

subject, the reader is referred to Appendix I. to this volume.

second in order, because they continue and confirm the history delivered in the Gospels, and give an account of the churches which were planted by the apostles. The Epistles hold the third place, because they contain instructions to the newly-planted churches, and more fully explain, confirm, and apply the doctrines of the Gospel. In the fourth place comes the Apocalypse, which, Dr. Mill remarks, is fitly placed last, because it predicts things that are hereafter to be fulfilled, and is therefore of a different kind from the rest and also because it has, towards the end, that remarkable clause (Rev. xxii. 18, 19.) against adding to or taking from it, which may be applied to all the books of Scripture: to which observation we may add, that there are strong reasons for believing it to be the last written of all the books of the New Testament.2

With respect to the order in which particular books (especially Saint Paul's Epistles) are to be placed under these respective classes, there is a considerable difference of opinion among learned men, in consequence of the diversity of the dates when the books are supposed to have been written.

As these dates are particularly considered in the account of each book, given in the following pages, it may suffice at present to remark that the order now generally received is the most ancient, being that adopted by Eusebius in the early part of the fourth century, as it had probably been the order adopted by Ignatius, who lived at the close of the first and during the former half of the second century. Dr. Lardner (in whose judgment Bishop Tomline has acquiesced) is of opinion that the received order is the best: and although it is both entertaining and useful to know the order in which Saint Paul's epistles were written, yet he is of opinion that we should not deviate from that arrangement which has been so long established in all the editions of the original Greek, as well as in all modern versions, partly on account of the difficulty which would attend such an alteration, and also because the order of time has not yet been settled beyond the possibility of dispute.4

The following table will perhaps be useful to the student, as exhibiting at one view the various classes of the books of the New Testament above enumerated.5

The Books of the NEW TESTAMENT are,

I. HISTORICAL, describing the history of

Jews and Gentiles, are declared in the

1. Jesus Christ, the head of the Church; whose genealogy, birth, life, doctrine, mira-
cles, death, resurrection, and ascension are recorded by the four evangelists
2. The Christian Church, whose primitive plantation, state, and increase, both among Acts of the Apostles.


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

III. PRottenTAJ for the Ap what shall be the future state and condition of the Church of Christ to the end of the world,

written by John the Apostle; viz.

III. John.

The Revelations.





I. Observations on the general Appellation of GOSPEL, as applied to the Histories of Jesus Christ.-II. General Scope of the Gospels.-III. Their Number-IV. Importance of the Gospels.

I. THE Word ETATTEAION, which we translate Gospel, | of Christ, that is, to those sacred histories in which are among Greek profane writers, signifies any good tidings recorded the "good tidings of great joy to all people," of the (from w, good, and a, a message or tidings), and corres- advent of the Messiah, together with all its joyful circumponds exactly with our English word Gospel, which is de- stances; and hence the authors of those histories have acrived from the Saxon words god, God or good, and rpel, word quired the title of EVANGELISTS. Besides this general title, or tiding, and denotes God's word or good tidings. In the the sacred writers use the term Gospel, with a variety of New Testament this term is confined to the glad tidings of epithets, which it may be necessary to mention. the actual coming of the Messiah, and is even opposed to the prophecies concerning Christ. (Rom. i. 1, 2.) Thus, in Matt. xi. 5. our Lord says, "the poor have the Gospel preached to them," that is, the advent and doctrines of the Messiah or Christ are preached to the poor. Hence ecclesiastical writers gave the appellation of Gospels to the lives

[blocks in formation]

Thus, it is called the Gospel of Peace (Eph. vi. 15.), because it proclaims peace with God to fallen man, through Jesus Christ;-The Gospel of God concerning his Son (Rom. i. 1.3.), because it relates every thing concerning the conception, birth, preaching, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ;-The Gospel of his Son (Rom. i. 9.); The Gospel of Salvation (Eph. i. 13.), because it offers salvation to the lost or miserable;-The Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matt. iv. 23. ix. 35. xxiv. 14. Mark i. 14.), because it proclaims the power and dominion of the Messiah, the nature and privileges of his kingdom, its laws, and the duties of its subjects;-The Word or Doctrine (xogos) of the

Rosenmüller, Scholia in N. T. tom. i. pp. 2, 3. Michaelis, vol. iii.

pp. 1, 2.

Gospel (Acts xv. 7.)-The Word of Reconciliation (2 Cor. | pens of separate and independent writers, who, from the con7. 19.), because it makes known the manner and terms by which God is reconciled to sinners;-The Gospel of Glory (or the glorious Gospel) of the blessed God (1 Tim. i. 11.), as being that dispensation which exhibits the glory of all the divine attributes in the salvation of mankind;-and The Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts xx. 24.), because it is a declaration of God's free favour towards all men.-The blessings and privileges promised in the New Testament (1 Cor. ix. 23.)-The public profession of Christian doctrine (Mark viii. 35. x. 29. 2 Tim. i. 8. Philem. ver. 13.);—and in Gal. i. 6. 8, 9. any new doctrines, whether true or false, are respectively called the Gospel.

tradictions, whether real or apparent, which are visible in these accounts, have incontestably proved that they did not unite with a view of imposing a fabulous narrative on mankind. That Saint Matthew had never seen the Gospel of Saint Luke, nor Saint Luke the Gospel of Saint Matthew, is evident from a comparison of their writings. The Gospel of Saint Mark, which was written later, must likewise have been unknown to Saint Luke; and that Saint Mark had ever read the Gospel of Saint Luke, is at least improbable, because their Gospels so frequently differ." It is a generally received opinion, that Saint Mark made use of Saint Matthew's Gospel in the composition of his own: but this, it will be shown in a subsequent page, is an unfounded hypothesis. The Gospel of Saint John, being written after the other three, supplies what they had omitted. Thus have we four distinct and independent writers of one and the same history; and though trifling variations may seem to exist in their narratives, yet these admit of easy solutions; and in all matters of consequence, whether doctrinal or historical, there is such a manifest agreement between them as is to be found in no other writings whatever.

"Though we have only four original writers of the life of Jesus, the evidence of the history does not rest on the testimony of four men. Christianity had been propagated in a great part of the world before any of them had written, on the testimony of thousands and tens of thousands, who had been witnesses of the great facts which they have recorded so that the writing of these particular books is not to be con sidered as the cause, but rather the effect, of the belief of Christianity; nor could those books have been written and received as they were, viz. as authentic histories, of the subject of which all persons of that age were judges, if the facts they have recorded had not been well known to be true."a

II. The general design of the evangelists in writing the Gospels was, doubtless, to confirm the Christians of that (and every succeeding) age in their belief of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, through whom alone they can obtain eternal life (John xx. 31.), and also to defend this momentous truth against the calumnies of the adversaries of the Christian faith. For, as the Jews, and those who supported the Jewish superstition, would calumniate, and endeavour to render suspected, the oral declarations of the apostles concerning the life, transactions, and resurrection of our Saviour, it would not a little tend to strengthen the faith and courage of the first Christians, if the most important events in the history of Jesus Christ were committed to writing in a narrative which should set forth his dignity and divine majesty. This task was executed by two apostles, Matthew and John, and two companions of the apostles, Mark and Luke, if indeed Luke was not one of those who attended the ministry of Jesus Christ. Of these evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have chiefly related the actions and doctrines of Jesus in Galilee, probably on account of the false reports circulated by the Jews of Jerusalem: who, being unable to deny the memorable and notorious transactions performed there by Jesus Christ, seem to have directed all their efforts to invalidate the credibility of what he is said to have taught and done in Galilee. This is the more likely, as we know that they held the Galileans in the utmost contempt, as well as every thing which came from that country. (John vii. 52.) Such appears to have been the reason why these three evangelists have related the transac-I. tions of Jesus Christ in Galilee more at length; while, with the exception of his passion and resurrection, they have only touched briefly on the other circumstances of his life. On the contrary, John expatiates more largely on the actions and doctrines of our Saviour both at Jerusalem and in Judæa, and adds a variety of particulars omitted by the others.

[blocks in formation]

III. The Gospels which have been transmitted to us are I. IN some Greek and Latin manuscripts, and the earlier four in number; and we learn from undoubted authority that printed editions, as well as in the Coptic version and many four, and four only, were ever received by the Christian Greek and Latin fathers, the TITLE of this book is, Eu church as the genuine and inspired writings of the evange-ra Mardany, "Gospel according to Matthew." In many lists. Many of the ancient fathers have attempted to assign other MSS., however, but of later date, it is To xara Marak the reason why we have precisely this number of Gospels, av Euxov, which may be rendered either, "The Holy and haye fancied that they discovered a mysterious ana- Gospel according to Matthew," or (which is adopted in our logy between the four Gospels and the four winds, the authorized version), "The Gospel according to Saint Matfour regions or corners of the earth, the four rivers of Para- thew." But in many of the most ancient Greek manu dise, and the four corners and four rings of the ark of the scripts, and in several editions it is To xara MarJasov Evazze covenant! But the most celebrated analogy is that of the four, which in the ancient Latin versions is rendered Evananimals described by Ezekiel (i. 5-10.), which was first gelium secundum Matthæum,-the Gospel according to observed by Irenæus,3 and after him by Jerome,' and which Matthew: nara Manav being equivalent to reu Murau, as gave rise to the well-known paintings of the four evangelists. the preposition 2T is used by Greek writers in the same The following table exhibits the most probable dates, as well manner as the of the Hebrews in many of the titles of the as the names of the places, where the historical books of the psalms,-to indicate the author. The "Gospel according to New Testament were written. Matthew," therefore, means the history of or by Matthew, concerning the life, acts, and doctrines of Jesus Christ :" and as the evangelist's design is, to show that every thing done or taught by Him was characteristic of the Messiah, Hug remarks, that his book deserved to be called Evayev,-the consolatory annunciation of the Messiah; an appellation, biographies of Jesus, though though their peculiar aim was which (he thinks) was subsequently attached to all the other entirely different from that of Matthew.10 In the Arabic ver


Matthew (Hebrew) (Greek)


Luke (Gospel)


(Acts of the Apostles)


A. D.

37 or 38.
- Judæa
Rome between 60 and 63.
- Greece -
63 or 64.
- Ephesus
97 or 98.

IV. "It is a considerable advantage that a history of such importance as that of Jesus Christ has been recorded by the

1 Dr. Clarke's Preface to the Gospel of Matthew, p. ii. 4.

2 Irenæus adv. Hæres. lib. iii. c. 11. expressly states that in the second century the four Gospels were received by the church. See additional testimonies to the number of the Gospels in the Index to Dr. Lardner's Works, voce Gospels.

3 Irenæus adv. Hæres. lib. iii. c. 11. The first living creature, says this father, which is like a lion, signifies Christ's efficacy, principality, and regality; viz. Jchn;-the second, like a calf, denotes his sacerdotal order, viz. Luke; the third, having as it were a man's face, describes his coming in the flesh as man, viz. Matthew;-and the fourth, like a flying eagle, manifests the grace of the Spirit flying into the church, viz. Mark !!

4 Jerome, Procem. in Matth. The reader, who is desirous of reading more of these fanciful analogies, will find them collected by Suicer, in his Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, tom. i. pp. 1222, 1223.

5 Michaelis, vol. iii. p. 4.

• See Section III. § VIII. infra.


See Vol. I. Part II. Book II. Chap. VII. on the Contradictions which are alleged to exist in the Scriptures.

8 Dr. Priestley's Notes on the Bible, vol. iii. p. 7.

9 A similar mode of expression occurs in the second apocryphal Book of Maccabees (ii. 13.), where we read xD TO OVATIOμOIS TOIS KATA TON NEEMIAN, in our version rendered "the commentaries of NEE. MIAS."

10 Pritii Introd. ad Nov. Test. p. 169. Keinoel, Prolegomena ad Matthæum, § 2. Hug's Introd. to the New Testament, by Dr Wait, vol. ii. p. 9. Griesbach's edit. of the New Testament, vol. i. on Matt. i. 1. Moldenhawer, Introd. ad Libros Biblicos, p. 245.

sion, as printed in Bishop Walton's Polyglott, this Gospel is thus entitled: "The Gospel of Saint Matthew the apostle, which he wrote in Hebrew by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." In the Persian version it is:-"The Gospel of Matthew, which was spoken in the Hebrew tongue, in a city of Palestine, but written in Syriac at Antioch;" and in the Syriac version, "The Gospel, the preaching of Matthew." II. Matthew, surnamed Levi, was the son of Alpheus, but not of that Alpheus or Cleopas who was the father of James mentioned in Matt. x. 3. He was a native of Galilee, but of what city in that country, or of what tribe of the people of Israel, we are not informed. Before his conversion to Christianity, he was a publican or tax-gatherer, under the Romans, and collected the customs of all goods exported or imported at Capernaum, a maritime town on the sea of Galilee, and also received the tribute paid by all passengers who went by water. While employed at the receipt of custom," Jesus called him to be a witness of his words and works, thus conferring upon him the honourable office of an apostle. From that time he continued with Jesus Christ, a familiar attendant on his person, a spectator of his public and private conduct, a hearer of his discourses, a witness of his miracles, and an evidence of his resurrection. After our Saviour's ascension, Matthew continued at Jerusalem with the other apostles, and with them on the day of Pentecost was endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. How long he remained in Judæa after that event, we have no authentic account. Socrates, an ecclesiastical historian of the fifth century, relates, that when the apostles went abroad to preach to the Gentiles, Thomas took Parthia for his lot; Bartholomew, India; and Matthew, Ethiopia. The common opinion is that he was crowned with martyrdom at Naddabar or Naddaver, a city in that country: but this is contradicted by the account of Heracleon, a learned Valentinian of the second century; who, as cited by Clement of Alexandria,1 reckons Matthew among the apostles that did not die by martyrdom: and as his statement is not contradicted by Clement, it is more likely to be true than the relation of Socrates, who did not flourish until three hundred years after Heracleon.2

III. Matthew is generally allowed to have written first of all the evangelists. His Gospel is uniformly placed first in all the codes or, volumes of the Gospels: and the priority is constantly given to it in all the quotations of the primitive fathers, as well as of the carly heretics. Its precedence, therefore, is unquestionable, though the precise time when it was composed is a question that has been greatly agitated. Dr. Mill, Michaelis, and Bishop Percy, after Irenæus, assign to it the year 61; Moldenhawer, to 61 or 62; Dr. Hales, to 63; Dr. Lardner and Mr. Hewlett, to 64; Baronius, Grotius, Wetstein, Mr. Jer. Jones, and others, after Eusebius, to 41; Dr. Benson, to 43; Dr. Cave, to 48; Dr. Owen and Bishop Tomline, to 38; and Dr. Townson, to the year 37. In this conflict of opinions, it is difficult to decide. The accounts left us by the ecclesiastical writers of antiquity, concerning the times when the Gospels were written or published, are so vague, confused, and discordant, that they lead us to no solid or certain determination. The oldest of the ancient fathers collected the reports of their own times, and set them down for certain truths; and those who followed adopted their accounts with implicit reverence. Thus traditions, true or false, passed on from one writer to another, without examination, until it became almost too late to examine

1 Stromata, lib. 4. p. 502. B. See the passage in Dr. Lardner's Works, 8vo. vol. vi. p. 48.; 4to. vol. iii. p. 159.

2 Lardner's Works, vol. vi. pp. 45-47. 8vo.; or vol. iii. pp. 157-159. 4to. Pritii Introductio Lectionem Novi Testamenti, pp. 154-157. Michaelis's Introduction, vol. iii. pp. 96-99.

Of all the primitive fathers, Irenæus (who flourished in the second century) is the only one who has said any thing concerning the exact time when St. Matthew's Gospel was written; and the passage (adv. Hæres. lib. iii. c. 1.) in which he has mentioned it, is so obscure, that no positive conclusion can be drawn from it. Dr. Lardner (8vo. vol. vi. p. 49.; 4to. vol. iii. p. 160.). and Dr. Townson (discourse iv. on the Gospels, sect iv. § 6.) understand it in very different senses. The following is a literal translation of the original passage, which the reader will find in Dr. Lardner's works. Matthew put forth (or published) a gospel among the Hebrews while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel at Rome and laying the foundations of a church there. Now, though it does not appear that Peter was at Rome until after Paul's liberation from his first imprisonment, A. D. 63, yet we know that the latter arrived there in the spring of A. D. 61, consequently the date intended by Irenæus must be the year 61.

Eusebius, who lived in the early part of the fourth century, merely says that Matthew, after preaching to the Hebrews, wrote his Gospel for their information, previously to his going to evangelize other nations (Eccl. Hist. lib. iii. c. 24.); but he does not specify the time, nor is it mentioned by any other ancient writer. In his Chronicon, however, Eusebius places the writings of St. Matthew's Gospel in the third year of the reign of the emperor Caligula, that is, eight years after Christ's ascension, or a. D. 41.

them to any purpose. Since, then, external evidence affords us but little assistance, it becomes necessary to have recourse to the internal testimony which the Gospel of Saint Matthew affords, and we apprehend that it will be found to preponderate in favour of an early date.

In the first place, it is by no means probable that the Christians should be left any considerable number of years without a genuine and authentic written history of our Saviour's ministry. "It is certain," Bishop Tomline remarks, "that the apostles immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, which took place only ten days after the ascension of our Saviour into heaven, preached the Gospel to the Jews with great success: and surely it is reasonable to suppose that an authentic account of our Saviour's doctrines and miracles would very soon be committed to writing for the confirmation of those who believed in his divine mission, and for the conversion of others, and more particularly to enable the Jews to compare the circumstances of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus with their ancient prophecies relative to the Messiah: and we may conceive that the apostles would be desirous of losing no time in writing an account of the miracles which Jesus performed, and of the discourses which he delivered, because, the sooner such an account was published, the easier it would be to inquire into its truth and accuracy; and, consequently, when these points were satisfactorily ascertained, the greater would be its weight and authority."5 On these accounts the learned prelate assigns the date of St. Matthew's Gospel to the year 38.

Secondly, as the sacred writers had a regard to the circumstances of the persons for whose use they wrote, we have an additional evidence for the early date of this Gospel, in the state of persecution in which the church was at the time when it was written: for it contains many obvious references to such a state, and many very apposite addresses both to the injured and to the injurious party.

1. Thus, the evangelist informs the injured and persecuted Christians, that their afflictions were no more than they had been taught to expect, and had promised to bear, when they embraced the Gospel (x. 21, 22. 34-36. xvi. 24.); that, however unreasonable their sufferings might be, considered as the effects of the malice of their enemies, they were yet useful and profitable to themselves, considered as trials of their faith and fidelity (v. 11. xxiv. 9-13.); that, though they were grievous to be borne at present, yet they operated powerfully to their future joy (v. 4. far from bettering their state and condition, that it would infal10-12.); that a pusillanimous desertion of the faith would be so libly expose them to greater calamities, and cut them off from the hopes of heaven (x. 28. 32, 33. 39.); that they were not, however, forbidden to use the lawful means of preservation; but even enjoined to put them in practice, whenever they could do it with innocence (x. 16, 17. 23.); that the due observance of the Christian precepts was an excellent method to appease the wrath and fury of their enemies, and what therefore they were obliged in point of prudence as well as duty carefully to mind and attend to (v. 39. vii. 12. 24—27. v. 13-20.); that if it should be their fate to suffer martyrdom at last for their religion, it was infinitely better to continue faithful to their important trust, than by any base compliance to incur his displeasure, in whose hands are the issues not only of this life, but also of that which is to come. (xvi. 25-27. x. 28.)

2. On the other hand, again, to calm the passions of the enraged Jews, and win them over to the profession of the Gospel, he labours to soften and abate their prejudices, and to engage them in the practice of meekness and charity. (ix. 13.) To this

s Elem. of Christ. Theol. vol. i. p. 301. The following observations of the profound critic Le Clerc will materially confirm the preceding remarks. "Those," says he, "who think that the Gospels were written so late as Irenæus states, and who supposés that, for the space of about thirty years after our Lord's ascension, there were many spurious gospels in the hands of the Christians, and not one that was genuine and authentic, do unwarily cast a very great reflection upon the wisdom of the apostles. For, what could have been more imprudent in them, than tamely to have suffered the idle stories concerning Christ to be read by the Christians, and not to contradict them by some authentic history, written by some credible persons, which might reach the knowledge of all men? For my part, I can never be persuaded to entertain so mean an opinion of men under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Besides, Matthew has delivered to us, not only the actions, but also the discourses of Christ; and this he must necessarily be able to do with the greater certainty, while they were fresh in his memory, than when, through length of time, he began to lose the impressions of them. It is true that the Holy Spirit was with the apostles, to bring all the things to their remembrance, which they had received of Christ, according to his promise (John xiv. 26.): but the Holy Spirit not only inspired them, but also dealt with them according to their natural powers, as the variety of expressions in the Gospel shows." Clerici Hist. Eccl. sæculi 1. A. D. LXII. § 9.

end, he lays before them the dignity and amiableness of a compassionate, benevolent disposition (v. 43. 48. xviii. 23-35.); the natural good consequences that are annexed to it here; and the distinguished regard which the Almighty himself will pay to it hereafter. (v. 5. 7. 9. x. 40-42. xviii. 23-35. v. 21-26. xxv. 31-46.) Then he reminds them of the repeated punishments which God had inflicted on their forefathers for their cruel and barbarous treatment of his prophets, and assures them that a still more accumulated vengeance was reserved for themselves, if they obstinately persisted in the ways of cruelty (xxiii. 27--39. x. 14, 15.); for God, though patient and long-suffering, was sure at last to vindicate his elect, and to punish their oppressors, unless they repented, believed, and reformed, with the dreadful rigour of a general destruction. (xxiv. 2. &c.)

These and similar arguments which Saint Matthew has inserted in the body of his Gospel (by way of comfort to the afflicted Christians, and also as a warning to their injurious oppressors and persecutors) evidently refer to a state of distress and persecution under which the church of Christ laboured at the time when the evangelist advanced and urged them. Now the greatest persecution ever raised against the church, while it was composed only of Jewish and Samaritan converts, was that which was commenced by the Sanhedrin, and was afterwards continued and conducted by Saul with mplacable rage and fury. During this calamity, which asted in the whole about six years, viz. till the third year of Caligula A. D. 39 or 40 (when the Jews were too much alarmed concerning their own affairs to give any further disturbance to the Christians), the members of the Christian church stood in need of all the support, consolation, and assistance that could be administered to them. But what comfort could they possibly receive, in their distressed situation, comparable to that which resulted from the example of their suffering Master, and the promise he had made to his faithful followers? This example, and those promises, Saint Matthew seasonably laid before them, towards the close of this period of trial, for their imitation and encouragement, and delivered it to them, as the anchor of their hope, to keep them steadfast in this violent tempest. From this consideration Dr. Owen was led to fix the date of Saint Matthew's Gospel to the year 38.2

which the comprehensive design of the Christian dispensa tion, as extending to the whole Gentile world, together with the rejection of the Jews, is unfolded in this Gospel. Of these topics, they suppose the evangelist not to have treated, until a course of years had developed their meaning, removed his Jewish prejudices, and given him a clearer discernment of their nature.

This objection, however, carries but little force with it. For, in the first place, as Dr. Townson has justly observed, with regard to the doctrinal part of his Gospel, if Saint Matthew exhibits a noble idea of pure religion and morality, he teaches no more than he had heard frequently taught, and often opposed to the maxims of the Jews, by his divine Instructor. And when the Holy Spirit, the guide into all that he still wanted twenty or thirty years to enlighten his truth, had descended upon him, it seems strange to imagine mind. If he was not then furnished with knowledge to relate these things as an evangelist, how was he qualified to preach them to the Jews as an apostle?

Gospel declare the extent of Christ's kingdom, and the callIn the next place, it is true that the prophetic parts of his ing and acceptance of the Gentiles. But these events had been plainly foretold by the ancient prophets, and were expected by devout Israelites to happen in the days of the Mesof the Gospel dispensation, the evangelist merely states that siah; and in those passages which relate to the universality the Gospel would be successfully preached among the Gentiles in all parts of the earth. He only recites the words of our Saviour without any explanation or remark; and we know the Holy Spirit should bring all things to their remembrance, it was promised to the apostles, that after Christ's ascension, and guide them into all truth. "Whether Saint Matthew

was aware of the call of the Gentiles, before the Gospel was actually embraced by them, cannot be ascertained: nor is it material, since it is generally agreed, that the inspired penmen often did not comprehend the full meaning of their own ous that it might answer a good purpose to have the future writings when they referred to future events; and it is obvicall of the Gentiles intimated in an authentic history of our Saviour's ministry, to which the believing Jews might refer, when that extraordinary and unexpected event should Thirdly, Saint Matthew ascribes those titles of sanctity to and they would more readily admit the comprehensive design take place. Their minds would thus be more easily satisfied; Jerusalem, by which it had been distinguished by the pro- of the Gospel, when they found it declared in a book which phets and ancient historians, and also testifies a higher they acknowledged as the rule of their faith and practice."10 veneration for the temple than the other evangelists:1 and this fact proves that his Gospel was written before the destruc- this evangelist's mentioning prophecies and prophetic paraOnce more, with respect to the argument deduced from tion of Jerusalem, and not after it, as a recent scoffing anta-bles, that speak of the rejection and overthrow of the Jews, gonist of Christianity has asserted, contrary to all evidence. it may be observed, that if this argument means, that, being The evangelist's comparative gentleness in mentioning John at first prejudiced in favour of a kingdom to be restored to the Baptist's reproof of Herod, and his silence concerning the insults offered by Herod to our Lord on the morning of his crucifixion, are additional evidences for the early date of his Gospel: for, as Herod was still reigning in Galilee, the evangelist diplayed no more of that sovereign's bad character than was absolutely necessary, lest he should excite Herod's jealousy of his believing subjects or their disaffection to him. If he was influenced by these motives, he must have written before the year 39, for in that year Herod was deposed and banished to Lyons by Caligula.

Lastly, to omit círcumstances of minor importance, Matthew's frequent mention (not fewer than nine times) of Pilate, as being then actually governor of Judæa, is an additional evidence of the early date of his Gospel. For Josephus informs us, that Pilate having been ordered by Vitellius, The Samaritans before the emperor, hastened thither, but begovernor of Syria, to go to Rome, to answer a complaint of fore he arrived the emperor was dead. Now, as Tiberius died in the spring of 37, it is highly probable that Saint Matthew's Gospel was written by that time.6

Dr. Lardner, however, and Bishop Percy, think that they discover marks of a lower date in Saint Matthew's writings. They argue from the knowledge which he shows of the spirituality of the Gospel, and of the excellence of the moral above the ceremonial law: and from the great clearness with

The same temper is also particularly illustrated in all our Saviour's


2 Owen's Observations on the Four Gospels (Svo. Lond. 1764.), pp. 8-21. $ Compare Neh. xi. 1. 18. Isa. xlviii. 2. lii. I. Dan. ix. 24. with Matt. iv. 5. v. 35. xxvii. 53.

Compare Matt. xxi. 12. with Mark xi. 15. Luke xix. 45. and Matt. xxvi. 61. with Mark xiv. 58.

Ant. Jud. lib. xviii. c. iv. § 2.

$ Dr. Townson's Discourses on the Gospels, Works, vol. i. pp. 107-115. Works, 8vo. vol. vi. pp. 57, 58.; 4to. vol. iii. pp. 163, 161.

Key to the New Test. p. 55. 3d edit.


2 P

Israel, he could not understand these prophecies, and therefore would not think of relating them if he wrote early;— though the premises should be admitted, we may justly deny what manner the predictions were to be accomplished, yet he the conclusion. Saint Matthew might not clearly discern in must see, what they all denounced, that God would reject those who rejected the Gospel: hence, he always had an inducement to notify them to his countrymen; and the sooner he apprized them of their danger, the greater charity he

showed them.11

Since, therefore, the objections to the early date by no means balance the weight of evidence in its favour, we are justified in assigning the date of this Gospel to the year of our Lord 37, or at the latest to the year 38. And as the fer the early date of A. D. 37 or 38 to the former, and A. D. 61 weight of evidence is also in favour of Saint Matthew's having composed his Gospel in Hebrew AND Greek,12 we may reto the latter. This will reconcile the apparently conflicting testimonies of Irenæus and Eusebius above mentioned,13. opinions concerning the real date of Saint Matthew's Gospel. which have led biblical critics to form such widely different

IV. The next subject of inquiry respects the LANGUAGE in which Saint Matthew wrote his Gospel, and which has been Erasmus, Paræus, Calvin, Le Clerc, Fabricius, Pfeiffer, Dr. contested among critics with no small degree of acrimony; Lightfoot, Beausobre, Basnage, Wetstein, Rumpæus, Dr. Whitby, Edelmann, Hug, Fritsche, Hoffman, Moldenhawer,

9 Thus Zacharias, the father of the Baptist, speaks of Christ as coming to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke

i. 79.), which description includes the Gentiles; and Simeon expressly calla him a light to lighten the Gentiles. (Luke ii. 32.)

10 Bishop Tomline's Elements of Christ. Theol. vol. i. p. 302.

11 Dr. Townson's Discourses, disc. iv. sect. iv. Works, vol. i. pp. 116, 117, 12 See pp. 298, 299. infra.

13 See p. 296. notes 3. and 4. supra.

« ElőzőTovább »