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Church, - partly also from written documents embodying portions of that teaching : that there is however no reason from their internal structure to believe, but every reason to disbelieve, that any one of the three Evangelists had access to either of the other two Gospels in its present form.
THE DISCREPANCIES, APPARENT AND REAL, OF THE THREE GOSPELS.
1. In our Three Narratives, many events and sayings do not hold the same relative place in one as in another : and hence difficulties have arisen, and the faith of some has been weakened; while the adversaries of our religion have made the most of these differences to impugn the veracity of the writers themselves. And hence also Christian commentators have been driven to a system of harmonizing which condescends to adopt the weakest compromises, and to do the utmost violence to probability and fairness, in its zeal for the veracity of the Evangelists. It becomes important therefore critically to discriminate between real and apparent discrepancy, and while with all fairness we acknowledge the former where it exists, to lay down certain common-sense rules whereby the latter may be also ascertained.
2. The real discrepancies between our Evangelistic histories are very few, and those nearly all of one kind. They are simply the results of the entire independence of the accounts. They consist mainly in different chronological arrangements, expressed or implied. Such for instance is the transposition, before noticed, of the history of the passage into the country of the Gadarenes, which in Matt. viii. 28 ff. precedes a whole course of events which in Mark v. 1 ff.: Luke viü. 26 ff. it follows. Such again is the difference in position between the pair of incidents related Matt. vii. 19–22, and the same pair of incidents found in Luke ix. 57–61. And such are some other varieties of arrangement and position, which will be brought before the readers of the following Commentary. Now the way of dealing with such discrepancies has been twofold,
-as remarked above. The enemies of the faith have of course recognized them, and pushed them to the utmost ; often attempting to create them where they do not exist, and where they do, using them to overthrow the narrative in which they occur. While this has been their course,-equally unworthy of the Evangelists and their subject has been that of those who are usually thought the orthodox Harmonists. They have usually taken upon them to state, that such variously placed narratives do not refer to the same incidents, and so to save (as they imagine) the credit of the Evangelists, at the expense of common fairness and candour. Who, for example, can for a moment VOL. I.-17]
doubt that the pairs of incidents above cited from St. Matthew and St. Luke are identical with each other? What man can ever suppose that the same offer would have been, not merely twice made to our Lord in the same words and similarly answered by Him (for this is very possible), but actually followed in both cases by a request from another disciple, couched also in the very same words? The reiterated sequence of the two is absolutely out of all bounds of probability :-and yet it is supposed and maintained by one of the ablest of our modern Harmonists. And this is only one specimen out of very many of the same kind, notices of which may be seen in the following Commentary.
3. The fair Christian critic will pursue a plan different from both these. With no desire to create discrepancies, but rather every desire truthfully and justly to solve them, if it may be,,he will candidly recognize them where they unquestionably exist. By this he loses nothing, and the Evangelists lose nothing. That one great and glorious portrait of our Lord should be harmoniously depicted by them,—that the procession of events by which our redemption is assured to us should be one and the same in all,—is surely more wonderful, and more plainly the work of God's Holy Spirit, the more entirely independent of each other they must be inferred to have been. Variation in detail and arrangement is to my mind the most valuable proof that they were, not mere mouthpieces or organs of the Holy Spirit, as some would suicidally make them, but holy men, under His inspiration. I shall treat of this part of our subject more at length below (in & vi.) :-I mention it now, to shew that we need not be afraid to recognize real discrepancies, in the spirit of fairness and truth. Christianity never was, and never can be the gainer, by any concealment, warping, or avoidance of the plain truth, wherever it is to be found.
4. On the other hand, the Christian critic will fairly discriminate between real and apparent discrepancy. And in order to this, some rules must be laid down by which the limits of each may
be determined. 5. Similar incidents must not be too hastily assumed to be the same. If one Evangelist had given us the feeding of the five thousand, and another that of the four, we should have been strongly tempted to pronounce the incidents the same, and to find a discrepancy in the accounts :—but our conclusion would have been false :—for we have now both events narrated by each of two Evangelists (St. Matthew and St. Mark), and formally alluded to by our Lord Himself in connexion. (Matt. xvi. 9, 10. Mark viii. 19, 20.) And there are several narrations now in our Gospels, the identification of which must be abstained from; e. g. the anointing of our Lord by the woman who was a sinner, Luke vii. 36 ff., and that at Bethany by Mary the sister of Lazarus, in Matt. xxvi. 6 ff.: Mark xiv. 3 ff. : John xi. 2; xii. 3 ff. In such cases we must judge fairly and according to probability,—not making trifling differences in diction or narrative into important reasons why the incidents should be different ;—but rather examining critically the features of the incidents themselves, and discerning and determining upon the evidence furnished by them.
6. The circumstances and nature of our Lord's discourses must be taken into account. Judging à priori, the probability is, that He repeated most of His important sayings many times over, with more or less variation, to different audiences, but in the hearing of the same apostolic witnesses. If now these witnesses by their independent narratives have originated our present Gospels, what can be more likely than that these sayings should have found their way into the Gospels in various forms,-sometimes, as especially in Matthew, in long and strictly coherent discourses,—sometimes scattered up and down, as is the matter of several of Matthew's discourses in Luke? Yet such various reports of our Lord's sayings are most unreasonably by some of the modern German critics (e. g. De Wette) treated as discrepancies, and used to prove St. Matthew's discourses to have been mere combinations of shorter sayings uttered at different times. A striking instance of the repetition by our Lord of similar discourses varied according to the time and the hearers, may be found in the denunciations on the Scribes and Pharisees as uttered during the journey to Jerusalem, Luke xi. 37 ff., and the subsequent solemn and public reiteration of them in Jerusalem at the final close of the Lord's ministry in Matt. xxii. Compare also the parable of the pounds, Luke xix. 11 ff., with that of the talents, Matt. xxv. 14 ff., and in fact the whole of the discourses during the last journey in Luke, with their parallels, where such exist, in Matthew,
TIE FRAGMENTARY NATURE OF THE THREE GOSPELS.
1. On any hypothesis which attributes to our Evangelists the design of producing a complete history of the life and actions of our Lord, and gives two of them the advantage of consulting other records of the same kind with their own,—the omissions in their histories are perfectly inexplicable. For example,-St. Matthew, as an Apostle, was himself an eyewitness of the Ascension, an event holding a most important place in the divine process of the redemption of man. Yet he omits all record or mention of it. And though this is the most striking example, others are continually occurring throughout the Three Gospels. Why has there been no mention in them of the most notable miracle wrought by our Lord,—which indeed, humanly speaking, was the final exciting cause of that active enmity of the Jewish rulers which issued in His crucifixion ? Can it be believed, that an Apostle, writing in the fulness of his know19]
ledge as such, and with the design of presenting to his readers Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah,--should have omitted all mention of the raising of Lazarus,—and of the subsequent prophecy of Caiaphas, whereby that Messiahship was so strongly recognized ? The ordinary supposition, of silence being maintained for prudential reasons concerning Lazarus and his family, is quite beside the purpose. For the sacred books of the Christians were not published to the world in general, but were reserved and precious possessions of the believing societies : and even had this been otherwise, such concealment was wholly alien from their spirit and character.
2. The absence of completeness from our Gospels is even more strikingly shewn in their minor omissions, which cannot on any supposition be accounted for, if their authors had possessed records of the incidents so omitted. Only in the case of St. Luke does there appear to have been any design of giving a regular account of things throughout: and from his many omissions of important matter contained in Matthew, it is plain that his sources of information were, though copious, yet fragmentary. For, assuming what has been above inferred as to the independence of our three Evangelists, it is inconceivable that St. Luke, with his avowed design of completeness, ch. i. 3, should have been in possession of matter so important as that contained in those parts of Matthew, and should deliberately have excluded it from his Gospel.
3. The Gospel of St. Mark,-excluding from that term the venerable and authentic fragment at the end of ch. xvi.,-terminates abruptly in the midst of the narrative of incidents connected with the resurrection of our Lord. And, with the exception of the short prefatory compendium, ch. i. 1–13, there is no reason for supposing this Evangelist to be an abbreviator, in any sense, of the matter before him. His sources of information were of the very highest order, and his descriptions and narratives are most life-like and copious ; but they were confined within a certain cycle of apostolic teaching, viz. that which concerned the official life of our Lord: and in that cycle not complete, inasmuch as he breaks off short of the Ascension, which another Evangelistic hand has added from apostolic sources.
THE INSPIRATION OF THE EVANGELISTS AND OTHER N. T. WRITERS.
1. The results of our nquiries hitherto may be thus stated :- That our Three Gospels have arisen independently of one another, from sources of information possessed by the Evangelists :-such sources of information, for a very considerable part of their contents, being the narrative teaching of the Apostles; and, in cases where their personal
testimony was out of the question, oral or documentary narratives, preserved in and received by the Christian Church in the apostolic age ;that the Three Gospels are not formal complete accounts of the whole incidents of the sacred history, but each of them fragmentary, containing such portions of it as fell within the notice, or the special design, of the Evangelist.
2. The important question now comes before us, In what sense are the Evangelists to be regarded as having been inspired by the Holy Spirit of God? That they were so, in some sense, has been the concurrent belief of the Christian body in all ages. In the second, as in the nineteenth century, the ultimate appeal, in matters of fact and doctrine, has been to these venerable writings. It may be well then first to enquire on what grounds their authority has been rated so high by all Christians.
3. And I believe the answer to this question will be found to be, Because they are regarded as authentic documents, descending from the apostolic age, and presenting to us the substance of the apostolic testimony. The Apostles being raised up for the special purpose of witnessing to the Gospel history,--and these memoirs having been universally received in the early Church as embodying that their testimony, I see no escape left from the inference, that they come to us with inspired authority. The Apostles themselves, and their contemporaries in the ministry of the Word, were singularly endowed with the Holy Spirit for the founding and teaching of the Church : and Christians of all ages have accepted the Gospels and other writings of the New Testament as the written result of the Pentecostal effusion. The early Church was not likely to be deceived in this matter. The reception of the Gospels was immediate and universal. They never were placed for a moment by the consent of Christians in the same category with the spurious documents which soon sprung up after them. In external history, as in internal character, they differ entirely from the apocryphal Gospels; which though in some cases bearing the name and pretending to contain the teaching of an Apostle, were never recognized as apostolic.
4. Upon the authenticity, i. e. the apostolicity of our Gospels, rests their claim to inspiration. Containing the substance of the Apostles' testimony, they carry with them that special power of the Holy Spirit which rested on the Apostles in virtue of their office, and also on other teachers and preachers of the first age. It may be well then to enquire of what kind that power was, and how far extending.
5. We do not find the Apostles transformed, from being men of individual character and thought and feeling, into mere channels for the transmission of infallible truth. We find them, humanly speaking, to have been still distinguished by the same characteristics as before the descent of the Holy Ghost. We see Peter still ardent and impetuous,