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ITS STYLE AND CHARACTER.
1. The Gospel of Matthew is written in the same form of diction which pervades the other Gospels, the Hebraistic or Hellenistic Greek. This dialect resulted from the dispersion of the Greek language by the conquests of Alexander, and more especially from the intercourse of Jews with Greeks in the city of Alexandria. It is that of the LXX version of the Old Testament; of the apocryphal books; and of the writings of Philo and Josephus. In these two latter, however, it is not so marked, as in versions from the Hebrew, or books aiming at a Hebraistic character.
2. Of the three Gospels, that of Matthew presents the most complete example of the Hebraistic diction and construction, with perhaps the exception of the first chapter of Luke. And from what has been above said respecting its design, this would naturally be the case.
3. The internal character of this Gospel also answers to what we know of the history and time of its compilation. Its marks of chronological sequence are very vague, and many of them are hardly perhaps to be insisted on at all. When compared with the more definite notices of Mark and Luke, its order of events is sometimes superseded by theirs. It was to be expected, in the earliest written accounts of matters so important, that the object should rather be to record the things done, and the sayings of our Lord, than the precise order in which they took place.
4. It is in this principal duty of an Evangelist that Matthew stands pre-eminent; and especially in the report of the longer discourses of our Lord. It was within the limits of his purpose in writing, to include all the descriptions of the state and hopes of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus gave during His ministry. This seems to have been the peculiar gift of the Spirit to him,--to recall and deliver down, in their strictest verbal connexion, such discourses as the Sermon on the Mount, ch. v.-vii.; the apostolic commission, ch. x.; the discourse concerning John, ch. xi.; that on blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, ch. xii. ; the series of parables, ch. xiii. ; that to the Apostles on their divisions, ch. xviii.; and in their fulness, the whole series of polemical discourses and prophetic parables in ch. xxi.--xxv.
5. It has been my endeavour in the following Commentary, to point out the close internal connexion of the longer discourses, and to combat the mistake of those critics, who suppose them to be no more than collections of shorter sayings associated together from similarity of subject or character.
OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK.
ITS AUTHORSHIP. 1. As in the case of the two other Gospels, we are dependent entirely on traditional sources for the name of the author. It has been universally believed to be Marcus : and further, that he was the same person who in Acts xü. 12, 25; xv. 37, is spoken of as John whose surname was Mark: in xiii. 5, 13, as John : in xv. 39, as Mark: also in Col. iv. 10: 2 Tim. iv. 11: Philem. 24. The few particulars gleaned respecting him from Scripture are, that his mother's name was Mary (Acts xii. 12); and that she was sister to the Apostle Barnabas (Col. iv. 10); that she dwelt in Jerusalem (Acts, ibid.); that he was converted to Christianity by the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. v. 13); that he became the minister and companion of Paul and Barnabas, in their first missionary journey (Acts xii. 25); and was the cause of the variance and separation of these Apostles on their second (Acts xv. 37–40),-Barnabas wishing to take him again with them, but Paul refusing, because he had departed from them before the completion of the former journey (Acts xiii. 13). He then became the companion of Barnabas in his journey to Cyprus (Acts xv. 39). We find him however again with Paul (Col. iv. 10), and an allusion apparently made in the words there to some previous stain on his character, which was then removed ; see also Philem. 24: 2 Tim. iv. 11. Lastly, we find him with Peter (1 Pet. v. 13). From Scripture we know no more concerning him. But an unanimous tradition of the ancient Christian writers represents him as the “ interpreter ” of Peter: i. e. the secretary or amanuensis, whose office it was to commit to writing the orally-delivered instructions and narrations of the Apostle. See authorities quoted in § ii., below.
2. Tradition brings him with Peter to Rome (but apparently only on the authority of 1 Pet. v. 13); and thence to Alexandria. He is said to have become first bishop of the Church in that city, and to have suffered martyrdom there. All this however is exceedingly uncertain.
1. It was universally believed in the ancient Church, that Mark's Gospel was written under the influence, and almost by the dictation, of Peter.
(a) Eusebius quotes from Papias, as a testimony of John the presbyter, "Mark was the interpreter of Peter, and wrote down accurately whatever he recollected.”
(6) The same author says, “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, has delivered down to us in writing the things preached by Peter.' This he quotes from Irenæus ; and further that this took place after the deaths of Peter and Paul.
(c) The same author relates on the authority of Clement and Papias, that the hearers of Peter at Rome, unwilling that his teaching should be lost to them, besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter, to commit to writing the substance of that teaching; that the Apostle, being informed supernaturally of the work in which Mark was engaged, “was pleased with the earnestness of the man, and authorized the writing according to the request of the Church.” This account is manifestly inconsistent with the former. · (d) Eusebius gives yet another account, citing the very passage of Clement above referred to: that Peter, knowing of Mark's work when it was completed and published, “Neither forbade it, nor encouraged it."
(e) The same author elsewhere says, “ Thus says Peter concerning himself: for all things found in Mark are said to have been memorials of the discourses of Peter.”
(f) Tertullian relates: “The Gospel which Mark put forth is affirmed to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was.”
(9) Jerome writes : “Paul then had Titus for his interpreter, as also St. Peter had Mark, whose Gospel was composed by him writing at Peter's dictation."
2. The above testimonies must now be examined as to how far we are bound to receive them as decisive. We may observe that the matter to which they refer is one which could, from its nature, have been known to very few persons; viz. the private and unavowed influence of an Apostle over the writer. (For I reject at once the account which makes Peter authorize the Gospel, from no such authorization being apparent, which it certainly would have been, had it ever existed.) Again, the accounts cited are most vague and inconsistent as to the extent and nature of this influence,-some stating it to have been no more than that Peter preached, and Mark, after his death, collected the substance of his testimony from memory ; others making it extend even to the dictation of the words by the Apostle.
3. It is obvious that all such accounts must be judged according to the phænomena presented by the Gospel itself. Now we find, in the title of the Gospel, a presumption that no such testimony of Peter is here presented to us, as we have of Matthew in the former Gospel. Had such been the case, we should have found it called the Gospel according to Peter, not according to Mark.
4. If again we examine the contents of the Gospel, we are certainly not justified in concluding that Peter's hand has been directly employed in its compilation in its present form. The various mentions, and omissions of mention, of incidents in which that Apostle is directly concerned, are such as to be in no way consistently accounted for on this hypothesis. For let it be allowed that a natural modesty might have occasionally led him to omit matters tending to his honour,-yet how are we to account for his omitting to give an exact detail of other things at which he was present, and of which he might have rendered the most precise and circumstantial account? This has been especially the case in the narrative of the day of the Resurrection, not to mention numerous other instances which will be noticed in the Commentary. Besides, the above hypothesis regarding his suppressions cannot be consistently carried out. A remarkable instance to the contrary may be seen ch. xvi. 7, where “ tell his disciples and Peter” stands for “tell his disciples" in Matthew.
5. We are led to the same conclusion by a careful comparison of the contents of this Gospel with those of Matthew and Luke. We find that it follows the same great cycle of apostolic teaching ;-that its narratives are derived in many cases from the same sources ;-that it is improbable that any individual Apostle should have moulded and fashioned a record which keeps so much to the beaten track of the generallyreceived Evangelic history. His own individual remembrances must unavoidably have introduced additions of so considerable an amount as to have given to the Gospel more original matter than it at present possesses.
6. But while unable to conceive any influence directly exerted by Peter over the compilation of the Gospel, I would by no means deny the possibility of the derivation of some narratives in it from that Apostle, and recognize in such derivation the ground of the above testimonies. The peculiarly minute and graphic precision (presently, $ viii. to be further spoken of) which distinguishes this Evangelist, seems to claim for him access in many cases to the testimony of some eye-witness where the other two Evangelists have not had that advantage. I have pointed out these cases where they occur, in the Commentary; and have not hesitated in some of them to refer conjecturally to Peter as the source of the narration.
7. The inference to be drawn from what has preceded is, that,—the general tradition of the ancients which ascribed to Mark a connexion with Peter as his secretary or interpreter, being adopted, as likely to be founded on fact,-yet the idea of any considerable or direct influence of Peter over the writing of the Gospel is not borne out by the work itself. We may so far recognize in it one form of the probable truth ;-it is likely that Mark, from continual intercourse with and listening to Peter, and possibly from preservation of many of his narrations entire, may have been able, after his death, or at all events when separated from him, to preserve in his Gospel those vivid and original touches of description and filling out of the incidents, which we now discover in it. Further than this I do not think we are authorized in assuming ; and even this is conjectural only.
FOR WHAT READERS AND WITH WHAT OBJECT IT WAS WRITTEN.
1. Internal evidence is very full as to the class of readers for whom Mark compiled his Gospel : the Gentile Christians are clearly pointed out by the following indications :
(a) The omission of all genealogical notices of our Lord's descent.
(6) The general abstinence from Old Testament citations, except in reporting discourses of our Lord (ch. i. 2, 3 is the only exception, xv. 28 being rejected as spurious).
(c) The appending of interpretations to the Hebrew or Aramaic terms occurring in the narrative (ch. v. 41; vii. 11, 34).
(d) The explanations of Jewish customs, as for example ch. vii. 3, 4.
(e) Remarkable insertions or omissions in particular places : as, e. g. "for all the nations,” ch. xi. 17, which words are omitted in Matthew and Luke :—no mention of the Jewish law :-omission of the limitations of the mission of the Apostles in Matt. x. (common however also to Luke.)
2. It is true that too much stress must not be laid on single particulars of this sort, as indicating design, where the sources of the Gospels were so scattered and fragmentary. But the concurrence of all these affords a very strong presumption that that class of readers was in the view of the Evangelist, in whose favour all these circumstances unite. See Introduction to Matthew, $ iii. 2.
AT WHAT TIME IT WAS WRITTEN.
1. The most direct testimony on this head is that of Irenæus (see above, & ii. 1, ), that it was after the deaths of Peter and Paul. This would place its date, at all events, after the year 63 (see Introd. to Acts, chronological table). But here, as in the case of the other Gospels, very little can be with any certainty inferred. We have conflicting